New vehicle statistics from the Department for Transport underline the pressure that the road network has to meet despite not being in a fit state to do so due to decades of under investment.

The Vehicle Licensing Statistics 2015 report a total of 36.5 million vehicles licensed for use in the UK. Since 2012 licensed vehicle numbers have increased by an average of 650,000 a year. Compared with 2014, cars are up by 2.2%, vans by 4.7% and HGVs by 2.0%. Unfortunately, the corresponding increase in motoring taxes from increased vehicle and fuel sales is not being invested into the local road network.

“The growth in licensed vehicles is indicative of a growing economy. Yet, the lack of real funding for local road maintenance means that the UK increasingly has a deteriorating road network more representative of a third world country than an economy that is reported as being the 6th largest in the world”, said Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

The parlous state of the local road network was laid bare by the recent Annual Local Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance that found the cost to bring just the local road network in England up to a reasonable standard would cost £11.8 billion and take 14 years to complete. The survey also found that, despite government announcements ad hoc additional funding, overall budgets for road maintenance have fallen by 16%.

“The government’s own statistics show the growth in the number of vehicles. Unfortunately, they are failing to provide the levels of investment necessary for a well-maintained road network. The decades of under investment means that our road network is unable to cope with existing traffic levels let alone an increase of 650,000 vehicles a year,” said Robinson.