Category Archives: potholes

NATIONAL POTHOLE DAY: THE VITAL STATISTICS

As part of National Pothole Day (15th January) the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has published an updated compendium of facts and figures behind the UK’s deteriorating local road network together with a range of recommendations to address the issue. The statistics cover the last 12 months and are pulled from a wide range of government and industry sources.

Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive said: “‘Potholes: the vital statistics’ provides the facts and figures that clearly demonstrate the need to invest in a well-maintained local road network.”

Key statistics include the £9.79bn that the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey reports would cost to bring the local road network up to an acceptable standard and the fact that, according to the Federation of Small Businesses, if you combined the depth of all of the potholes in England it would reach 28km – that is 25 times the depth of the Grand Canyon. Pot holes are also potentially dangerous with Confused.com reporting that one-in-three drivers have had an accident because of a pothole.

RSTA is calling for a number of actions to address the issue of deteriorating local roads. Harper said: “Proper maintenance of the local road network needs long-term, consistent investment if programmes of cost-effective, preventative maintenance rather than expensive short-term patch-up are to be implemented. Intervening at the right time of year, with the right surface treatment, in the right place, would extend the life of existing roads and make road maintenance budgets go much further.”

Specific actions that should be considered include injecting £1.5 billion a year to address the local road maintenance backlog by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty, providing assured funding settlement that enables planned five-year maintenance programmes and further collaboration between local highway authorities and the supply chain to forward the exchange of best practice and realise potential joint cost efficiencies

‘Potholes: The Vital Statistics’ is available as a free download from: https://bit.ly/2QRP8G8

FULFILLING POTHOLE PLEDGE WOULD BE EARLY WIN FOR PRIME MINISTER

According to media reports the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is hitting the ground running. The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) advises him to ensure that he avoids the potholes.

The Conservatives manifesto pledged an additional £2 billion over the next four years to repair the road network as part of a National Infrastructure Strategy calling it the ‘biggest ever pot-hole filling programme’. This has been warmly welcomed by the RSTA as a recognition that increased funding for the the local road network is essential if the decades of under-investment is to be addressed. The overall condition of local road network has deteriorated to such an extent that the latest ALARM Survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance reports that one-in-five roads are in such a poor condition that they will need replacing within five years.

“Improving the local road network would be an immediate and real sign that the Government is investing in local communities and local economies”, said Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive. “The additional funding over the next 4 years would give highway authorities increased means to not only repair our roads but to develop and implement proactive programmes of maintenance that would stop the potholes from forming in the first place.”

ELECTION MANIFESTO PROMISES END TO POTHOLED ROADS

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) was welcomed the positioning of the poor state of the local road network as a key election issue for the two major political parties.

As a result of decades of under-investment the overall condition of local road network has deteriorated to such an extent that the latest ALARM Survey from the Asphalt Industry Alliance reports that one-in-five roads are in such a poor condition that they will need replacing within five years. The survey calculates that it would take ten years and cost £9.8 billion to bring the road network up to scratch.

The Conservatives manifesto has pledged an additional £2 billion over the next four years to repair the road network as part of a National Infrastructure Strategy calling it the ‘biggest ever pot-hole filling programme’. Labour has said it would invest to make ‘neglected local roads safer for drivers’. The other political parties have concentrated on bus and rail services.

“RSTA has long campaigned for the socio-economic importance of a well-maintained road network to be recognised and the necessary levels of funding investment to be provided,” said Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive. “We warmly welcomed the inclusion of pledges to improve the road network in the Conservative and Labour manifestos. We hope that these promises are carried through. £2 billion over 4 years – if additional funding – is a substantial and useful amount to invest to make a real change.

However, that change will not come from just ‘filling potholes’ but from implementing proactive maintenance programmes that call upon the vast array of proven road surface treatments that would keep roads in a safe and serviceable condition and avoid potholes from forming in the first place.”

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES’ SILVER LINING FOR BETTER ROAD MAINTENANCE?

The introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could result in a better maintained local road network believes the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

Current live trials are pushing the momentum for the future introduction of driverless cars. In South London, driverless taxis car are currently being tested by FiveAL. The trials will test self-driving software on real busy roads in Croydon and Bromley. Trained drivers will be present in case something goes wrong. Also in London, focused on zones 1,2 and 3, Wayve are trialling eight driverless Jaguar I-Pace SUVs. Meanwhile, by the end of this year HumanDrive will have completed a 230 mile journey across the UK to test an AV in real road driving conditions from country roads to motorways.

The future benefits of self-driving cars include less accidents, improved use of road space, reduced congestion and pollution and more efficient fuel consumption. AVs would be equipped to ‘read the road’ and replicate the instinctive human ability to simultaneously observe, analyse, decide and react to every potential different road scenario such as potholes and reduced skid resistance.

“There is a flaw in the plan. The deterioration of the local road network due to decades on under-investment means that that rather than a vision of fast, smooth, well-spaced self-driving cars, the reality could be that poor road surfaces will cause the vehicles to switch to slow safety mode and signal constant warnings of approaching poor road surface conditions”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive.

However, Harper believes that the AVs having to go into repetitive safe mode could have a silver lining for local road investment. “Having to go into safe move would highlight the poor condition of the road surface and the need to do something about it. This would help local authorities with their business case for more funding to invest in local roads.”

Sensors fitted to AVs could provide live data on the road condition and so help local authorities not only know where pothole repairs are need but could provide the information necessary for planned programmes of maintenance.

Harper points to a research project being undertaken by Transport Scotland, Transport for West Midlands and Jaguar Land Rover to develop a system that enables AVs to spot and report potholes. Using a platform created by transport analytics firm Inrix, the AV Road Rules system would have a link to local road authorities alerting them to road damage or potholes to enable fast and efficient repair.

He said: “This is where AV’s could have a very useful role in improving the condition of our roads. Their adoption would provide real-time data that could prove valuable in developing and implementing surface dressing and maintenance programmes using a range of surface treatments, at the earliest signs of decay that would prevent potholes from forming in the first place.

AVs are being trialled as the future. This future should be one where potholes are prevented from forming as part of a well-managed, long term approach to road maintenance using the range of innovative, cost-effective surface treatments already available through RSTA members.”

PREDICTIONS OF NEW BEAST FROM EAST IS BAD NEWS FOR ROADS

Predictions that Britain is facing a new ‘Beast from the East’ could prove to be bad news for those highway authorities who have not carried out the necessary maintenance of the road network warns the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

Researchers at University College London have made one of the longest-range UK weather forecasts and predicted that January – February 2020 could be one of the coldest winters for 30 years with an average temperature of 3.9C, which is 0.5C below the 1981-2010 average for the same period.

“A severe winter would have a detrimental impact upon our roads and result in a significant increase in the number of potholes, particularly where roads have not been properly maintained or re-surfaced,” said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive.

Potholes are caused by water or snow freezing in cracks in the road surface. The expansion of ice results in damage and breaking up of the road surface which is made worse by repeated freeze-thaw cycles. Budget constraints over the last 10 years, mean that many highway authorities have not had assured levels of funding for planned, comprehensive maintenance and are forced to adopt an expensive patch-and-mend approach.

“Years of under-investment by successive governments has resulted in a decline in proactive maintenance techniques such as surface treatments, where roads are treated before they get to a critical condition, by sealing the surface against water ingress and thus preventing potholes forming.  This is what highway authorities should be doing to comply with the new code of practice, Well-Managed Highway Infrastructure. The industry constantly counts how many potholes have been repaired, but in reality we should be stopping them forming in the first place. The resultant patch-and-mend mentality of repairing potholes reactively is a very expensive solution explained Harper. “Whilst the government has provided some much welcomed additional ad-hoc funding there are over 40,000 local roads that are in such a poor structural condition that they will need to be replaced within 5 years.”

Harper called for a new approach from both national and local government: “What is needed from national government is a 5 year settlement for the UK’s Local Road Network, similar to that already in place, and delivering benefits, for the Strategic Road Network.  Such a new approach would provide that assured funding that allows local highway authorities to plan and implement the programmes of maintenance that would enable roads to withstand the impact of severe winters and ever increasing traffic volumes.

BREXIT IS NOT VOTERS ONLY CONCERN SO ARE POTHOLES

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s pledge of a one-off £1.8bn cash boost for the NHS shows that he knows that come a General Election Brexit is not the only concern of voters. He would be well-advised to also address to deteriorating local road network.

Decades of under investment has resulted in a deteriorating local road network riddled with potholes. The bill to restore the road network to a decent standard is £9.79 billion because successive governments have failed to provide the funding levels required to carry out the necessary levels of road maintenance. Continued cutbacks in local authority funding means that the situation can only get worse.

“Any political party that commits to real investment in our local road network would have significant approval from voters,” said Mike Harper, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

With thirty five million drivers in the UK, most with the ability to vote, the prime minister would be well-advised to take note of that concern. Of particular concern is that the billions of tax paid by drivers does not seem to go towards funding a better road network.  Motorists pay £58 billion in taxation to the Exchequer – £26.9 billion in fuel duty, £25 billion VAT on fuel and £6.1 billion for other motoring taxes. Against this just £2.06 billion is provided by central government as funding for local road maintenance. Furthermore, as it is not ring-fenced, the funding may not even be spent on road maintenance but on other council services as cash-strapped councils struggle to balance the books.

RSTA is calling for the investment of an additional 2p per litre taken from the existing fuel duty to fix the plague of potholes. This would provide an extra £1 billion to fix roads.

“A further £1 billion annual investment would certainly help local authorities tackle the damage done by under-investment by successive governments,” argued Harper. “The poor state of our roads is a major social and economic issue. Voters should make it a political issue too asking the party activists and parliamentary candidates what their political party plans to do to increase investment in their local roads.”

In addition, RSTA is calling for a 5 year funding settlement for local roads, as is the case for the strategic road network, so that highway managers can make long term decisions about how to manage their pavement assets, rather than relying on twindling budgets that are topped up on an ad hoc basis by additional pothole funding. Harper said: “Appropriate funding as part of a 5 year settlement will allow highway authorities to intervene with surface treatments, at the appropriate time in a roads life, to avoid potholes forming in the first place.”

PREDICTIONS OF COLD WINTER ARE BAD NEWS FOR LOCAL ROADS

Predictions of the coldest winter for eight years could prove to be bad news for the local road network. The Weather Company is predicting Britain’s worst winter since 2010-11 with temperatures falling to -21C. Exacta Weather are predicting a colder than average December with widespread snow. Meanwhile, the Met Office also believes that a predicted El Nino warming of the eastern Pacific could result in colder than usual temperatures in December and January. This is bad news for those highway authorities who have failed to properly maintain their road networks and for the motorists who use them warns the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

“A cold icy winter will have a detrimental impact upon our roads resulting in more potholes, particularly where local authority highway departments have not carried out proper road maintenance programmes”, warned Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

Potholes are caused by water or snow freezing in cracks in the road surface. The expansion of ice results in damage and breaking up of the road surface which is made worse by repeated freeze-thaw cycles. Budget constraints mean that many highway authorities are unable to carry out planned, comprehensive maintenance and are forced to adopt an expensive patch-and-mend approach.

Robinson called upon the government to provide local authorities with the necessary assured funding to carry out road maintenance: “Patch-and-mend defies economic logic”, said Robinson. “It costs only £2m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs on average £52m2 to repair potholes. Expensive, emergency patch and mend repair of potholes is not a sensible use of highway budgets.”

A prolonged cold winter with cycles of freezing and thawing will be bad news for vulnerable roads. The government needs to provide the necessary funding to allow local authorities to invest in programmes of planned maintenance and so ensure that their road network is weather resilient”.

NEW ASSET MANAGEMENT GROUP FOR LOCAL ROADS

A new Asset Management Group has been set-up by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). Aimed at local authorities, the Group will allow their highway departments to share best practice linked to the now mandatory Code of Practice – Well Managed Highway Infrastructure. The Code calls for a change in the way that road network is managed through the adoption of a risk-based approach. 

The Group has been established in partnership with XAIS Ltd, an asset management consultancy. It will develop and run a series of new courses on road surfaces and setting investigatory levels linked to road hierarchies. 

The first of these courses is on skid resistance. It will specifically focus on section B.5.6 of the Code and the recommendations for skid resistant surveys including setting the hierarchy, responsibilities, timescales and collating evidence. The course will examine how to develop a skid resistant strategy, how to measure skid resistance as well as the legal implications and liability risk. 

The two-day skid resistance course will run on 4/5th October in Wolverhampton, 17/18th October in Milton Keynes, 15/16th November in Bristol and 4/5th December in Doncaster. For registration and further information visit: www.rsta-uk.org or email: enquiries@rsta-uk.org 

“The new group will enable local authorities to take the best approach towards adopting asset management and we encourage them to join”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Given that, according to Department for Transport statistics, 27% of local roads need further investigation of possible inadequate skid resistance, the course on skid resistance and investigatory limits and road hierarchies will provide highway departments with the knowledge of how to meet their legal responsibilities via a risk-based approach.”

COUNCIL PRAISED BUT GOVERNMENT CRITICISED

Oxfordshire County Council has been praised for its decision to borrow £120 million to repair roads and other council assets. However, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) says that although the council is to be commended for its planned investment, it is a sad indictment of how the government’s budget cutbacks have forced the council to go into debt to pay for essential road maintenance. 

The council has made its decision following a report to the council’s cabinet that found lack of investment has resulted in a ‘significant reduction in quality of major and minor roads, as well as pavements, with an increase in car damage and personal injury claims’. The proposed investment will see £80 million spent on road improvements and £40 million invested in other council-owned assets. 

It is hoped that Oxfordshire’s expected growth in homes and subsequent annual £6million increase in council tax revenue will pay back the loan. 

“Oxfordshire County Council are to be commended for their decision to borrow to invest in road maintenance”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “The premise of investing in a well-maintained roadwork for economic return has been underlined by a recent West Midlands Road Condition Survey that found that an accelerated road maintenance programme would generate economic returns of £6.50 for every £1 spent. However, the council’s need to borrow additional funding proves that funding from central government is not sufficient to allow councils to fulfil their responsibilities.” 

By 2020, local authorities will have had a £16 billion reduction of core government funding since 2010. Continued funding restrictions means that by 2025 councils in England will face a funding gap of £7.8 billion. Faced with this, councils are trying to find new ways of funding and operating whilst still delivering essential services such as road maintenance. 

“The local road network is a council’s greatest infrastructure asset. A well maintained road network has significant economic and social benefits. Yet for years the government had failed to provide adequate funding for local road maintenance. The government should recognise the national importance of the local road network and increase investment accordingly,” said Robinson.