Roads “not fit for 21st century” as repair backlog tops £780m

The repair backlog to fix the “crumbling” road network across vast swathes of rural Yorkshire and our towns and cities tops more than £780m as the Government is warned our roads are not fit for the 21st century.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 6th January 2015, 8:00 am

Councils across the region have been left searching for millions of pounds to pay for the repairs as the scale of the problem caused by the poor state of Britain’s roads has been laid bare.

Last month the Government announced that Yorkshire authorities were to receive £500m from a £6bn fund to fight potholes and improve local roads over the next six years - but councils, business leaders and unions say that figure falls drastically short.

Coun Peter Box, the Local Government Association’s (LGA) transport spokesman, and leader of Wakefield Council, said tackling the road repair bill must be a “national priority” for the Government. It wants a further £1b a year injected into road maintenance, funded by fuel duty.

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Coun Box said: “We are all fed up with driving on crumbling roads that are not fit for the 21st century. Councils work hard to fix millions of potholes every year despite deep funding cuts and multi-million pound compensation costs.”

He warned the situation “will only get worse” as the Government predicts traffic to rise 40 per cent by 2040.

In North Yorkshire, where the backlog is highest, the county council is releasing some of its reserves to fund extra maintenance work. It receives less than half the £60m it requires a year to maintain its roads from the Government. Concentrating on busier A and B roads has left more than 1200km of quieter roads in need of repair, North Yorkshire’s executive member for highways, Coun Gareth Dadd said.

Bradford will get £4.65 million extra from the Government next year - despite a £48m backlog. The Council’s principal engineer for highway maintenance, Andy Whelan, said although the settlement was a little higher than previous years, it was “still not enough”.

Leeds Council, which will receive £45m, said the cash was not enough to see a “dramatic turnaround” in road conditions and it would have to prioritise its work.

Business representatives, industry figures and unions have also called for more investment in the roads.

Kate Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Road Haulage Association said poor quality roads were costing road users “billions of pounds” a year in damage to vehicles.

Dr Adam Marshall, policy director at the British Chambers of Commerce, said that while businesses would be pleased that councils would finally be able to get local roads “back into shape”, the backlog of road repairs remained huge, and more investment would be needed in the years ahead.

Mick Cash, general secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union, said: “Our members are repeatedly complaining to us that their vehicles are being damaged by the shocking condition of the roads. When you are a self-employed driver if your taxi or truck is damaged and you can’t work it means that you can’t earn either.”

RAC chief engineer David Bizley questioned whether the fresh investment went far enough.

“Recent estimates by the Asphalt Industry Alliance suggest a one-off investment of £12 billion is needed in England to deal with the backlog in road maintenance, the majority of which is associated with those roads for which local authorities are responsible,” he said.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Good local roads are vital for our transport network and it is for local councils to maintain them properly.

“This Government has provided over £4.7 billion since 2010 - an increase of £1bn compared with the previous parliament.

“As part of our long-term economic plan we will also spend a further £6bn between 2015 to 2021 providing councils with the certainty they require to plan how they will keep their roads well maintained.”