Local road pothole repair backlog tops £12 billion, report suggests

Local road pothole repair backlog tops £12 billion, report suggests

The cost of fixing the UK’s pothole problem now tops £12 billion, compounded by rising inflation, according to a new report.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) has released its Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) report for 2022, which has some concerning insights into the state of the UK’s roads.

According to the report, it would cost £12.64bn to clear the backlog of repairs and ‘bring the network up to a condition that would allow it to be managed cost effectively and sustainably going forward’.

It said that engineers are being faced with the choice between keeping local roads open and safe or improving overall conditions.

A car hits a pothole on a road in Islington, London.
The AIA says overall highway maintenance budgets are up four per cent on 2020/21, but the proportion being invested in the road surface itself has gone down.

As a result, the backlog of repairs has increased 23 per cent in just one year.

Rick Green, AIA Chair, said: “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.

“As a result, while they report some slight improvements in surface conditions, the structure of our roads continues to decline.

“Although surface repairs have a part to play in extending the life of local roads, short-term fixes, including filling potholes, is indicative of a network that is ‘on the edge’ and less efficient and sustainable when it comes to materials usage and whole-life carbon emissions.”

The ALARM report is in its 27th year and is based on information reported directly from local authorities, who said they would have needed a further £1 billion last year just to meet their own targets. That’s before even considering reducing the backlog of repairs.

Other findings from this year’s report include the fact that nearly one in five local roads could need to be rebuilt in the next five years, one pothole is filled every 19 seconds, and roads are only resurfaced on average every 70 years.

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

“The longer it takes for the funding to be put in place to tackle the backlog of repairs, the more it is going to cost to put it right in the future.”

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