Six city regions call for sweeping highways finance reforms

 

Sweeping financial reforms are needed to tackle the widespread level of failing local highways assets, six of the largest city regions have warned.

The Passenger Transport Executive Group (pteg), which represents six metropolitan transport bodies including Transport for Greater Manchester, Merseytravel and the West Midlands’ Centro made the calls in a new report released today.

It highlights that Highways England, which manages the national road network ‘received 2.7 times as much maintenance spend per km as local authority-managed A roads and motorways and 15.9 times as much as local authority unclassified roads’.

This is despite councils managing 98% of the road network which also carries two thirds of all motorised traffic.

A bumpy ride, lays out a list of demands on government, including calls for a significant increase in maintenance spending over the next five years to bring road surfaces back into condition and get ahead of the local repair backlog, estimated to be at least £12bn.

It also calls for a review of the formula used to allocate highways funding so cash is issued in proportion to the traffic volume and usage of local roads rather than just in relation to road length - an idea previously called for by Surrey CC as well.

Greater flexibility over how overall maintenance funding is spent to relax some of the ‘artificial distinctions between capital and revenue maintenance’, is also recommended by pteg.

The calls come after senior Department for Transport officials have conceded the difficulties local government faces as a result of a revenue drain in the grant funding from the Department for Communities and local Government.

Chair of pteg, Dr Jon Lamonte, said: ‘The funding gap on maintenance between national and local is particularly acute for the city regions given the volumes of traffic and the wider role of efficient and reliable transport networks in underpinning our plans for growth.

‘Road maintenance may not be the most glamorous of transport topics but without a well maintained road network we can’t get the improvements we want to see in a host of areas from tackling traffic congestion to achieving modal shift.

'The long-term approach now being taken to road maintenance on the national road network will save money for the taxpayer in the long run. We now need to extend this approach to the next tier of strategic local roads and beyond, and put behind us the era of inefficient patch and mend of roads that have been allowed to deteriorate too far and for too long.’

The report highlights research in the West Midlands that suggests an accelerated maintenance programme would generate economic returns of £6.50 for every £1 of public funding invested.

It also claims that the six English metropolitan areas alone (with a combined population of 11 million), had 5,500kms of roads in urgent need of repair in 2014, compared to just 220kms across the entire Highways England network.

Surveyor's Highway Management conference will take place on September 23rd and 24th in Manchester. To register go to: www.highway.surveyorevents.com

 
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