Senior figures in Highways England have claimed the new company’s multi-billion pound investment programme will put pressure on the nation’s lorry capacity rather than its aggregate industry.
The government-owned company, which replaces the Highways Agency today, has been tasked with delivering a £11bn capital investment programme from 2015 to 2020, including £5bn to replace worn out roads under a major resurfacing package.
Many in the highways sector have warned this amount of investment could result in a capacity crunch in materials, resulting in local authorities feeling the pinch when maintaining local roads.
Chief executive of The Road Surface Treatments Association, Howard Robinson, told Transport Network that there were already shortages of chippings and other materials after quarries and bitumen plants were mothballed or closed down in the wake of the recession.
He said: ‘There could be a chronic shortage of materials particularly in peak season. The Mineral Products Association has accepted there is a supply problem. Where is all the asphalt going to come from?’
However David Brewer, network delivery and development director of Highways England, said his company would help boost the highways sector’s capacity in the long run and that lorries were his main concern.
‘The ultimate capacity crunch is probably going to be trucks rather than stones,’ he said.
‘We are dramatically increasing output and in the process increasing productivity that is giving confidence to the aggregate sector for them to invest in trucks in opening up new quarries, in employing people.
‘They can see there is a good solid pipeline of work coming their way, they are prepared to commit resources and that actually improves capacity for the whole of the market place.
‘What we are intending to do because we have our long-term delivery plan, we are going to be smoothing our work delivery right across the year. We tend to deliver at night time they [local authorities] tend to deliver in day time so I think boosting market capacity should in the long run help local authorities.’
He went on to say the company could bring in aggregates from overseas as well as working to recycle more materials.