SKID RESISTANCE OF LOCAL ROADS NEEDS INVESTIGATING

The skid resistance levels of over quarter of the local road network is reported to be questionable and needs further investigation according to the latest figures from the Department for Transport. In London this rises to over half of all local roads.

According to the latest Department for Transport Road Conditions in England statistics, over the 3 years period 2016 to 2019, 28% of the local road network has questionable skid resistance levels. This is an increase of 2% over the period 2013 to 2016. The London Boroughs had the highest proportion of the road network requiring further investigation, at 53%. This has increased from 45% from the period 2013 -2016. The skidding resistance figures do not necessarily reflect actual safety levels on the roads but do indicate sites where further investigation is required.

“The increase in the number of roads requiring skid resistance is worrying,” said Mike Harper, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “Reduced skidding resistance can mean increase the chance of accidents especially at approaches to road junctions and traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and roundabouts as well as road stretches that have high accidents levels. Local authorities need to ensure that these potential accident black spots are made as safe as possible by ensuring that they are investigated, properly surfaced and maintained”.

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) is calling for greater use of high friction surfacing (HFS) and other surface treatments to improve skid resistance. Furthermore, the Association warns that deterioration in skid resistance could be an early indicator that the road as a whole needs intervention.

There are a number of cost-effective road surface techniques that can be used including surface dressing, retexturing or high friction surfacing.  Surface dressing not only restores skid resistance but also protects the road surface against water ingress and pothole formation. Retexturing can improve skid resistance with minimal disruption to the road user as it can be carried out at high speed at any time of year.

Harper pointed out that: “Highway budgets have been under immense pressure over the last few years. However, in most cases skid resistance can be restored without major resurfacing works. For roads in good condition, retexturing can restore both the macro and micro texture. Surface dressing can restore skid resistance and protect the road surface against water ingress and pothole formation. High friction surfacing significantly increases skid resistance and reduces braking distance and is particularly suited at high risk road sites. With skid accident reduction rates of over 50% the success of high friction surfacing speaks for itself.”

He continued: “Over the last few years there has been a decline in the amount of high friction surfacing being installed on our road networks. At the same time we have seen the numbers of fatal worryingly to start to rise slightly in recent years – up to 1784 in 2018, compared to 1754 in 2012* We must make sure that we don’t forget the lessons that led to the UK having some of the world’s safest roads, and re-double our efforts to reduce accidents year-on-year by using proven road surface technology.”

*Department for Transport; Reported road casualties in Great Britain: 2018 annual report; 2019

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.

SPENDING REVIEW INCREASE FOR LOCAL AUTHORITY SERVICES MAY HALT COUNCILS RAIDING HIGHWAY BUDGETS

Although disappointed that there was no mention of increased funding to address the deteriorating local road network, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed today’s Spending Review that delivered a funding package of more than £3.5 billion for local authority services next year.

“This is the biggest year-on-year increase in real terms for local authority spending in ten years. We hope that it means councils will not have to raid highway maintenance budgets so much in the future in order to fund social care and other services”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. “Councils are being forced to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and as road maintenance budgets are not ring fenced this has made them an easy target.”

Cuts in highway maintenance budgets has resulted in a deteriorating local road network riddled with potholes. According to the latest AIA ALARM Surve, the bill to restore the road network to an appropriate standard is £9.79 billion.

To address this, the RSTA is calling for the investment of 2p per litre taken from the existing fuel taxation, rather than make a fuel tax cut as the Prime Minister has recently proposed.  This could provide an additional £1.5 billion per annum for road maintenance, in addition to the current spend on maintaining local roads, which is currently around £1 billion. This extra funding could make a significant difference and start working through the backlog. Furthermore, RSTA believes that there should be a 5 year funding settlement for local roads, as is the case for the strategic road network. This would enable highway managers to implement long-term programmes of road surfacing and maintenance based on assured funding decisions.

“The Chancellor has recognised the need for increase in social care spending. He now needs to consider a long-term funding mechanism to rebuild the local road network after many years of depleted highway budgets,” said Harper.

INVEST PROPOSED FUEL DUTY CUT IN ROAD MAINTENANCE

To benefit social well-being and the national economy, the monies from cutting fuel duty should be spent on repairing the road network.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is considering a two pence cut in the current 57.9p fuel duty. The proposal is the latest sign that the Government is gearing up for a Brexit Election later this year and follows voter-friendly announcements on schools and the NHS.

It is estimated that the cut would cost the Treasury £1.5 billion. This argues the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) should be spend on investing in the repair and maintenance of the deteriorating local road network.

“There are 35 million drivers in the UK. Most are voters who are fed-up with potholes and the damage that they do to their vehicles,” said Mike Harper, RSTA Chief Executive. Decades of under investment by successive governments 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. Investing the £1.5 billion from the cut in fuel duty in road maintenance could make a significant difference.”

RSTA has long called for the investment of an additional 2p per litre taken from the existing fuel duty to fix the plague of potholes. In addition, RSTA believes that there should be a ring-fenced 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 best manage their pavement assets with planned programme of road maintenance rather than reactive patch-and-mend pothole repair.

“Boris Johnson wishes to be remembered as the prime minister who sorts out Brexit. He should also consider being the prime minister who fixed our roads by directing the fuel duty to where it really should go: back into the road network,” said Harper.

WORKFORCE TRAINING A MUST FOR RECEIPT OF INCENTIVE FUNDS

Local authorities in England may have to provide evidence of their highways staff competence and training as part of their bids for road maintenance incentive funding in 2020 as DfT intend to instigate the “audit and review” process for the self-assessment process. With the self-assessment questionnaires due to be presented to the Department for Transport (DfT) early 2020, the launch of the RSTA’s autumn road training programme is well-timed.

As part of their self-assessment questionnaires bids for 2020/21 road maintenance incentive fund, local authorities need to provide data to demonstrate which Band they are in. The higher the Band the higher their share of the available funds with those in Band 3 receiving their full share, Band 2 receiving 50% and Band 1 just 10%.  DfT will not necessarily want to see the supporting evidence from every local highway authority, but it may undertake sample audits for the first time. The completed self-assessment questionnaires must be submitted by February 2020. Failure to submit a questionnaire will mean that the local authority will receive nothing from the incentive fund (which makes up 20% of the traditional highways budget for most local authorities

For many local highways authorities ongoing budget constraints has seen significant cutbacks in their training budgets. This is despite their full appreciation of the importance of having a well-trained and competent workforce and the fact that having such a workforce is an important element of the Highways Sector Scheme 13 whereby the workforce competence must be proven. The impact of training cuts is further compounded by many experienced highway engineers and operatives having been made redundant or have retired and not been replaced.

Against this background is the simple fact that if road maintenance is to be correctly carried out then a well-trained and competent workforce is essential for improved health and safety, quality of work, and increased productivity.

To assist local authorities meet their training needs, RSTA has developed a comprehensive training programme specific to the road maintenance sector. The programme offers training in surface dressing, slurry surfacing, and high-friction surfacing, as well as a series of ‘highways maintenance techniques’ training days held throughout the UK that are aimed at providing asset managers with knowledge of a wide range of surface treatments for optimising the life performance and reducing the whole life cost of asphalt pavements. Courses are linked to Sector Scheme 13 for the supply and application of road surface treatments and assessment is also available for operatives at NVQ Level 2, NVQ level 3 for Foremen and for supervisors at NVQ Level 4.

In addition, RSTA is working closely with local authority organisations such as LCRIG to deliver specific training events that facilitate best value through collaboration by allowing local authorities to train together. The RSTA is also collaborating with Xais Asset Management to provide skid policy courses for local authorities.

Mike Harper, chief executive at the RSTA commented: “In recent years, we have encouraged local authorities to collaborate and get engineers together from neighbouring authorities as well as their own staff.  We can provide training courses within a local authorities own premises for a fixed cost. Not only does this save on associated travel and hotel costs by taking the course to the learners, but by local authorities grouping together to get higher numbers of attendees for a one off fixed costs, the cost per learner may be more than halved, making those training budgets go further.”

He continued: “The inclusion of workforce competence and training within the incentive fund self-assessment underlines the essential role that training has in delivering cost efficient road maintenance. This is not lost on the DfT who very keen to see local authorities collaborating with each other and the supply chain. The RSTA autumn training programme is an excellent opportunity to do just that.”

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.”

ROAD SURFACE AUTUMN TRAINING PROGRAMME LAUNCHED

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has launched its Autumn 2019 training programme.

Aimed at asset managers and highway engineers, the courses have been developed to ensure that highway departments choose the right process or product for the right place at the right time. Courses include slurry and micro-surfacing, surface dressing, and collaboration with LCRIG’s southern technical training day, following a successful northern event in March.

All the RSTA courses are Silver Certificate and as such are compliant with the requirements of Sector Scheme 13 for road surface treatments. Full details of the training programme can be found at www.rsta-uk.org

INCREASED SPENDING ON LOCAL ROADS COULD BE POST-BREXIT AND VOTE WINNER FOR TORY CONTENDERS

The two Tory contenders vying to become party leader and Prime Minister have set out their initial spending plans to ensure that post-Brexit the UK is open for business and that the Conservatives have a shot of winning the next General Election. Investing in improving the deteriorating local road network would help them meet both objectives believes the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

“If they want to ensure that Britain is open for business then Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt should both be calling for increased investment in a well-maintained local road network”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. “A well-maintained local road network is essential for our national economic prosperity. It is the prerequisite link to the national road and rail network, to the ports and airports, between peoples’ homes and places of work.

Unfortunately, successive governments have failed to recognise this and despite the vast majority of journeys being taken using the local road network, it has failed to match the expenditure provided to maintain the national road network with that provided to maintain the local road network. National roads and motorway maintenance receives 53 times more funding than local roads.”

Harper points out that result of the lack of spending on road maintenance, according to the latest ALARM Survey from the Asphalt Industries Association, is that one-in-five local roads are classed as being structurally poor and in such a bad condition that they need to be replaced within the next five years.

The need for greater investment in local road maintenance is supported by the research and survey evidence from key industry organisations such as the British Chambers of Commerce, the EEF and the CBI who all report that their members believe that the deteriorating state of the local road network is increasingly a barrier to business.

The poor potholed state of many of our roads is of considerable concern to many drivers. With thirty five million drivers in the UK, most with the ability to vote, any future 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. The result is a deteriorating local road network that needs £9.79 billion to bring it back up to a satisfactory standard.

Harper said: “Johnson and Hunt both need to prove that they fully recognise the social and the economic benefits of a well-maintained local road network and that they are ready to provide the necessary levels of funding. Such investment would provide a national economic boost, would relieve cash-strapped local councils and would prove to be a vote winner.”

ROADS INDUSTRY WELCOMES MPS’ CALL FOR FIVE-YEAR FUNDING SETTLEMENT

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed MP’s calls for the end of erratic funding for local road maintenance that forces short-term, reactive pothole repairs rather than proactive planned programmes of long-term preventative maintenance.

The House of Commons Transport Committee latest report ‘Local roads funding and maintenance: filling the gap’, addresses the extreme state of disrepair of the English local road network and states that the only way forward is a front-loaded, five- year funding settlement that will enable local authorities to plan ahead.

The MPs’ point out that potholes are a safety risk, particularly for cyclists, and a deteriorating road network undermines local economic performance whilst repairing potholes rather than preventing them from forming in the first place does not make economic sense.

In a damning indictment of the current state of local roads, the Chair of the Transport Committee, Lilian Greenwood MP, said: “Local roads are the arteries of our villages, towns and cities, but most people won’t have to go further than the local shops to spot a pothole that poses a risk of injury or damage. Local authorities are in the invidious position of having to rob Peter to pay Paul. Cash-strapped councils are raiding their highways and transport budgets to fund core services.

Now is the time for the Department to propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury as part of the forthcoming Spending Review.”

RSTA has long argued for government to recognise the social and economic importance of having a well-maintained local road network and of the need to provide assured and adequate levels of funding.

“What is needed is proper assured funding that enable planned five year maintenance programmes. Inadequate levels of investment topped up by the odd, ad-hoc funding allocation does not allow local highway authorities to plan and implement the programmes of maintenance that would prevent potholes from forming in the first place,” said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive.

“We warmly welcome and support the recommendations of the Transport Committee that the Department for Transport work with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to propose a front-loaded, long-term funding settlement to the Treasury as part of the forthcoming Spending Review.”