Issue 5 | Winter 2011




The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called upon the government to close the gap between excessive motoring taxation and the lack of real investment on road maintenance.

The calls follows new research from the Tax Payers’ Alliance (TPA) that fuel duty and vehicle excise duty raised £31.5 billion in 2009 yet road spending was only £9.9 billion. The study found that on average, once the £3.5 billion social cost of road transport emissions had been taken into account, excess motoring taxes cost an average of £293 per person. In rural areas, where driving is often essential due to the poor availability of public transport, excessive motoring taxation can be up to £566 per person.

In addition to excessive taxation, the poor state of many of our roads means that Britain’s motorists are having to dig deep into their pockets to pay for car repairs. Insurers Warranty Direct have calculated that nearly every year six per cent of vehicles suffered axle or suspension damage resulting from potholes or other road defects. Last year, the average cost of repairs was £312 with some reaching £4,000. This equates to £3 million per day or £1 billion a year.

The Government needs to address the substantial gap between the heavy taxation levied on motorists and the poor state of the road network. Some £10 billion is necessary to address the backlog of repairs and potholes which, following the recent severe winters and lack of adequate maintenance investment, is estimated to number over two million.


Local authorities need to adhere to recognised industry best practice, be open to innovation and specify the best not the cheapest solution.

These measures have been called for by the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) responding to the Department for Transport’s pothole review being undertaken under the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP). The review follows the devastating impact of three successive severe winters upon the road network which resulted in a total of 2.7 million potholes in 2010 and widespread public annoyance and criticism. The review proposes a full examination of why potholes occur and the development and provision of guidance on how to avoid or repair them. Its report is due to be published in April 2012.

Local authorities can achieve much with forward planning rather than retrospective repair. Those local authorities who carry out planned road surface dressing and maintenance find that their roads do not suffer from potholes and do not need premature repair. The review needs to examine inconsistencies, for example why do many local authorities undertaken comprehensive preventative maintenance while others do not, and to consider the barriers towards accepting product innovation and best practice guidance on how to obtain best value.

A particular area that needs addressing is that of workforce skills. Contractor operatives undertaking road surface maintenance should be fully trained and qualified to ensure that they apply correct work practices. Operatives must have minimum NVQs and CSCS skill cards proving competencies and knowledge.

The review should encourage the sharing of best practice between local authorities and ultimately produce a code of practice for pothole prevention and repair that is endorsed by all stakeholders. RSTA is working with the Department for Transport, ADEPT and other industry stakeholder groups in forwarding best practice that can result in cost savings, minimised disruption, introduction of new techniques and enhanced service life of road surfaces and road repairs.


RSTA has published a suite of new and updated codes of good practice. These cover surface dressing, slurry micro-surfacing, high friction surfacing and retexturing with new codes on geosynthetics and steel meshes, velocity patching, thermal road repairs and in-situ road recycling to be published in the New Year.

The codes, which are peer group reviewed and endorsed by ADEPT, provide comprehensive explanations of the road surfacing techniques and examine the key issues that must be addressed such as health and safety, the environment, training, site planning and co-ordination, equipment and installation. The codes are supported by reference to all current and relevant standards as well as training qualifications.

Copies of the codes of practice may be downloaded freely from the RSTA website: www.rsta-uk.org/publications


A survey of councillors has found a majority calling for extra funding to repair the crumbling local road network. Whilst extra funding is desirable, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) believes that local councils can do much more to help themselves.

The survey, carried out by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, reveals that over half of those councillors questioned said that this year’s £200 million injection of emergency funding for pot hole repairs was not enough, whilst 78% said that they were unhappy with their local road network and 90% said that poor road condition remained an issue in their area following the severe winter weather.

Whilst the lack of funding is certainly an issue, there is lot that councils can do and should be doing to prevent their roads from deteriorating in the first place. They should be undertaking planned preventative maintenance not emergency repair, adhere to industry best practice, be open to innovation and specify the best, not the cheapest solution.

Those local authorities that do carry out planned road surface dressing and maintenance find that their roads do not suffer from potholes and so do not need premature repairs. In addition to planned maintenance programmes, local authorities need to be more open to product and process innovation and be ready to adopt best practice guidance on how to obtain best value. Funding for road maintenance is tight but there is a lot that local authorities can do to help prevent the widespread deterioration of their greatest asset: the local road network.


Half of the local authorities responding to Freedom of Information requests by Autoglass® are cutting their road maintenance budgets. The survey found that reductions of up to £17 million are being made as councils slash spending to balance the books.

The biggest cut of those county councils responding to the Freedom of Information requests was in Kent where the county council is cutting its overall road maintenance budget from £90m to £73m. There were other big falls in Bedfordshire (-£1,779 m), Surrey (-£1,256m) and Essex (-£648,885). Among the big city authorities, Leeds reported a £5.011m reduction – although this did not take account of additional Government money to repair potholes. Liverpool announced a drop of £1.4m followed by Nottingham which is expecting to make an 18% cut from £2.01 million in 2010-11 to £1.66m in 2011-12.


Roads in many parts of the UK are already plagued with potholes before any winter freeze gets to work on them, the AA’s army of Streetwatchers has revealed. The survey, undertaken at the end of October, involved around 1,000 AA Streetwatchers walking around their UK neighbourhoods for an hour noting nine road and path-related issues. Overall, the survey found that the average pothole count per Streetwatcher was 14.9 compared to 12.5 a year ago. The survey defined a pothole as being at least 6 inches in diameter and at least two inches deep.
The survey found:
  • Overall, the North East and Scotland had the most potholes per survey, averaging 19.0 and 20.1 respectively against a national average of 14.9 potholes per neighbourhood
  • Across the Midlands, for every repaired potholes, there is one that the councils have marked but not repaired yet. This compares with a UK average of six to one.
  • Against a national average of 12.8 repaired potholes per neighbourhood, the South east averages 13.7, South West 13.8, Scotland 14.0 and North East 16.4
  • Only the South West has on average more repaired potholes than new ones.
The survey results leave a strong sense of councils struggling to tackle the pothole problem. However, they seem to have been overwhelmed trying to patch-up roads that are crumbling through years of inadequate funding of structural repairs.

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