Highways maintenance specifications should be changed in response to growing shortages of materials and cash, public sector and industry figures have suggested.
Transport Network recently revealed the price pressure facing local highways departments due in part to the five-year funding settlement for Highways England and a raft of planned infrastructure projects. This all comes as council budgets are increasingly squeezed,
David Binding, commercial director of highways contractor Ringway, warned that further increases were likely, promoting suggestions that specifications should be changed.
‘There’s a major issue in relation to the availability of high-skid-resistant aggregates,’ he said. ‘The prices have risen significantly – in the order of 10% in the last year.
'I think the requirement will be to review and change skid-resistance standards, so it’s looking at specifications across both Highways England and local authorities in relation to using resources that are more available.’
David Whitton, Devon CC’s head of highways, told Transport Network: ‘We’re noticing big cost and supply-chain issues. The Government has put in new projects like pinchpoint schemes, which take a lot of demand for materials. We’re finding it quite hard to get our hands on materials for our normal maintenance work.
'We’ve got cost pressures – 10% in road surfacing materials. We need to look at our specifications. At the moment we’re working with the South West Highway Alliance, and also looking at the new Well Managed Highways Code of Practice to make sure that’s fit for purpose and does reflect the shortage of funding so that people don’t have gold-plated specifications.
‘In some cases we’re reducing where we put high-skid-resistant material because it does come at a premium.’
Asked about potential litigation after accidents where specifications had been lowered, Mr Whitton said: ‘It’s about having a risk-based approach to some of these issues. We have to have a balance between cost and risk.’
Mr Binding cautioned that inconsistency between clients also tended to increase prices.
‘The relevance of Highways England is that there’s consistency of programme that the industry can gear up to. That consistency of programme needs to be matched by combined authorities,’ he said.