ALARM 2024: Record £16.3bn backlog reaching 'point of no return'


The carriageway repair bill for local roads in England and Wales has reached a record high of £16.3bn – double the promised £8bn funding uplift from the Government.

According to the latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey report, published on Tuesday by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), more than half of the local network has less than 15 years of 'structural life' left.

The AIA said that local authority highway teams had received an overall increase in carriageway maintenance budgets but this was more than cancelled out by rising costs.

With average highway maintenance budgets increasing by 2.3%, inflation means that highway authorities in England and Wales have effectively experienced a real-terms cut.

Nearly half (45%) of authorities reported a cut or freeze in their highway maintenance budget in cash terms.

Malcolm Simms of the Mineral Products Association told Highways that while the increase in the cost of the backlog was higher than the recent rate of inflation, the inflation seen by the sector continued to outstrip the general rate.

The increasing frequency of extreme weather events has compounded the problem and accelerated the rate at which the network is deteriorating.

Other findings in the latest report show that in England and Wales:

  • Less than half (47%) of all local roads are reported to be in good structural condition, meaning the remaining 107,000 miles (53%) could continue to deteriorate so badly they need to be totally rebuilt within the next 15 years, unless appropriate maintenance measures take place.
  • £143.5m has been spent filling in two million potholes over the last 12 months.
  • Highway authorities would have needed an additional £1.22bn (an average of £7.2m per authority) just to reach their own target road conditions.
  • Roads are only resurfaced on average once every 80 years.

AIA chair Rick Green said: ‘It’s clear that there is still a mountain to climb when it comes to improving the condition of our local roads, which are a key asset on which we all rely, every day.

‘The Government has recognised that fixing our roads is about more than filling in potholes with its announcement of the additional Network North funding in England. But, while the transport secretary stated that this additional £8.3bn over 11 years is enough to resurface 5,000 miles of local roads, this equates to just 2.5% of the network.’

Mr Green added: ‘That said, English authorities would be in an even worse position without this additional funding, so we sincerely hope that this promise is delivered on and that the Welsh Government honours its commitments to prioritising highway maintenance.’

Speaking to Highways’ All Roads Lead podcast, Mr Green said the situation is ‘not far off’ the point of no return, adding that while the public has suffered in silence, ‘they should be more active in complaining about the state of the roads’.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: ‘The fact that government data shows road maintenance is actually declining at a time when the precise opposite is needed is even further evidence that councils don’t have the funding they need to look after these most important assets.

‘The status quo is not sustainable. The longer the Government fails to grasp this reality, the bigger the eventual cost to the public purse.

'Only a commitment to introducing ring-fenced roads funding for councils will get them out of this dire mess. Without it, our roads will only get worse.’

Road Condition Index (RCI) data, which reports the general condition of the surface of the carriageway, not necessarily the structure of the road, shows there has been another drop in the length of roads classed as GREEN (in a good state of repair) and a corresponding increase in those classed as AMBER (showing some deterioration).

The percentage of roads classed as RED (poor overall condition) has again remained stable, but this means 11% of the local road network in England and Wales – around 22,300 miles – is likely to require maintenance in the next 12 months.

Only 6% of ALARM respondents in England and Wales reported that the structural condition of their local road network improved over the last year. Surface conditions are also reported to be worse.

The AIA called on the Government to sustain current levels of highways maintenance and Pothole Fund cash at least in line with inflation, extending their timeframe to match the additional £8.3bn promised by ministers.

This year’s ALARM survey is the 29th and received responses from 72% of local authorities in England and Wales. It reports local road funding and conditions based on information provided directly by those responsible for their maintenance.

comments powered by Disqus