The pressures facing hard-strapped highway authorities is underlined by new Department for Transport figures that show traffic levels are at an all time high.

The latest Quarterly Road Traffic Estimates show that between July to September 2014 traffic levels increased by 2.2% compared to the same quarter in 2013. In total some 77.9 billion vehicle miles were travelled on Britain’s roads with urban minor roads experiencing the highest increase – up by 3.5%.

Despite the growth in traffic levels, the money available to highway authorities to ensure that roads are well maintained and able to cope with such an increase continues to decrease.

Continued under-investment in the road network has left a £12 billion backlog of road repairs. The struggle for local highway authorities to fund long-term road maintenance rather than quick fix, patch-and-mend was demonstrated by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Highway Maintenance. In its report, ‘Managing a valuable asset: improving local road condition’, the Group highlighted the deteriorating state of the UK regional and local road network and calculated that outside London, road maintenance is under-funded by an average of £6.2 million per local authority every year.

“Highway budgets are already severely stretched with current funding levels being inadequate to bring the road network up to an adequate standard”, said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association. “Decades of under-funding have forced local authorities to adopt short-term, expensive patch-and-mend rather than implement planned programmes of cost-effective long-term maintenance.”

He continued: “The increase in traffic levels will place further pressure on the road network.  The Department for Transport puts the increase down to an improving national economy.  The government must recognise that a well-maintained road network is essential for a successful economy.   Unfortunately, the current reality of our deteriorating road network is potholes, vehicular damage, and traffic congestion that costs the UK economy £5 billion a year.”