News that the local road maintenance backlog in London is now over £1bn should sound a warning bell for the government. Continued funding cutbacks and decades of lack of investment in local road maintenance means that some areas of London, the capital of a first world city, have the road network more suited to a third world country said the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).
The latest ‘State of the city’ survey, carried out by Atkins on behalf of London Councils and the London Technical Advisers Group, has found that the total maintenance backlog is estimated to be £1.02bn up from £907m. The survey covers the roads managed by London’s boroughs who manage 95% of the capital’s roads.
“The problem is not just a lack of funding, but a lack of funding consistency and predictability,” said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. “The current network spend is £300m a year against a need to spend at least £350m a year. Despite increased asset management and cost efficiencies London’s highway authorities are fighting a losing battle. Highway professionals want to follow the new code of practice, ‘Well Managed Highways’ as well as implement industry recommendations but the annual funding allocation, occasionally topped-up by spot-funding at odd times of the year, does not allow the planning required for good asset management. This is necessary for planning the right road surface treatments in the right places at the right time of year in order to maximise the life of roads in the most cost effective way.”
London councils expect government core funding to reduce by 63% in real terms over the decade to 2020. They have to fund the maintenance of their roads from budgets that are shrinking and, as they are not ring-fenced, are subject to being ransacked to pay for other council services.
“Years of under-funding means that despite their best efforts councils are unable to halt the continued deterioration of the London roads. The resulting rutted, potholed network is more third world than the capital of the worlds’ fifth largest economy,” said Harper. “The roads surface industry knows how to achieve better results than this. What we need is a five year settlement for local roads, similar to that used for the national road network. This would allow our highway engineers to deliver the improved road network that Londoners need and have a right to expect.”