Cost of bringing pothole-plagued local roads up to scratch jumps 23% in a year

A survey suggested it would cost £12.6 billion to return local roads to a condition that means they can be maintained cost-effectively.

22 March 2022

The backlog of repairs on pothole-plagued local roads in England and Wales has soared by almost a quarter in 12 months due to a lack of long-term investment, according to a new report.

A survey of councils by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) suggested it would cost £12.64 billion to return local roads to a condition from which cost-effective maintenance would be possible.

This is up from £10.24 billion one year ago.

The AIA’s annual local authority road maintenance (Alarm) survey indicated that the proportion of council budgets allocated to highway maintenance has fallen during the 2021/22 financial year compared with the previous 12 months.

The proportion has fallen from 5.5% to 5.1% in England (excluding London), from 2.0% to 1.6% in London, and from 4.5% to 3.0% in Wales.

Almost one in five local roads could need to be rebuilt in the next five years due to their condition, which is nearly 37,000 miles of road.

The Alarm survey also suggested that local roads are typically resurfaced only once every 70 years.

AIA chairman Rick Green said: “The link between continued underinvestment and the ongoing structural decline and below par surface conditions of our local roads is clear.

How a pothole forms
(PA Graphics)

“The country’s ambitions to encourage active travel, plus cutting waste and carbon emissions, will not be achieved with a short-term approach that can’t deliver a first-rate local road network.”

He added: “Local authority highway teams have a legal responsibility to keep our roads safe, but do not have the funds to do so in a cost-effective, proactive way.”

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Despite the efforts of councils, which repair a pothole every 19 seconds, these stark new figures show our local road repair backlog is rising.

“To clear this growing backlog, councils need further government investment and certainty over future funding over the next decade.”

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said the report “provides a sobering picture of the dire condition of our local road network”.

He went on: “The Government must now look at implementing a long-term funding strategy which ringfences a small proportion of existing fuel duty revenue to give local authorities the resources to properly plan maintenance and to ensure our local roads are once again made fit for purpose.”

Cycling UK head of campaigns Duncan Dollimore said: “Lack of funding and misplaced priorities from governments repeatedly prioritising major road building has left local roads in decay.”

More from Perspective

Get a free copy of our print edition


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Your email address will not be published. The views expressed in the comments below are not those of Perspective. We encourage healthy debate, but racist, misogynistic, homophobic and other types of hateful comments will not be published.