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ALARM survey shows rise in potholes

The annual national survey of local road network condition and funding in England and Wales has been published, revealing an increase in the number of crumbling roads; renewing calls for UK Government support for increased and longer term funding. The 18th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey was completed by 75% of councils across England and Wales and reports that the number of potholes filled over the last year rose to over two million; an increase of 29% on the previous year. The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) is calling for action from central Government to introduce longer-term funding mechanisms, allowing councils to move from one-year costly cycles of highly reactive work to planned, preventative maintenance programs.

The cost of filling the estimated 2.2 million potholes across England and Wales came to £113m (US$171m), while £32 million (US$41m) was paid out in compensation claims and the cost of staff time spent on claims amounted to over £13m (US$19.6m). Councils have paid out 50% more in 2012 than the previous year in compensation claims from road users for damage or injury due to poor road condition. The local road network accounts for 95% of the country’s roads, with 20% of local roads reported as being in “poor condition”, which is defined as having five years or less life remaining. The 59% of ALARM respondents whose roads were damaged as a result of the extreme rainfall in 2012, estimated the total cost of their repairs at £338 million (US$511m), with authorities estimating that £10.5 billion (US$15.8bn) would be needed to bring their roads back into reasonable condition.

“Constantly having to patch up crumbling roads, rather than using highway engineers’ skills properly, to ensure good road condition in a planned and cost effective way, is nonsensical and costly to the country,” said AIA chairman, Alan Mackenzie. “The DfT’s ‘Potholes Review’ was a welcome initiative and concluded that ‘prevention is better than cure’. It’s hard to understand why central Government cannot find a way to invest in this much needed work and save on higher costs in the future. The additional £215m (US$315m) announced in the autumn to help improve local road condition over the next couple of years, doesn’t even cover the £338m of damage repair needed as a result of last year’s rainfall. It’s time to stop the rot.”

March 18, 2013

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