We are the 98%: Local roads sector frustrated by funding imbalance

 

Key figures in the highways sector have lined up to welcome the chancellor's commitment to create a dedicated Roads Fund but expressed anger it appears to entrench the imbalance between local and national spending.

With local roads making up the vast majority of the total network and suffering from much greater disrepair, councils chiefs raised concerns over the balance of spending after the Treasury stated the Roads Fund would be for the strategic network,

Local Government Association Transport Spokesman Cllr Peter Box said: 'While extra funding for roads is necessary, it is disappointing that this appears to be restricted to motorways. We are facing a 42% increase in traffic on local roads by 2040 and there is a £12bn backlog of roads repairs. Since no car journey begins or ends on a motorway, we would urge that this fund, which will be paid for by motorists out of their car tax, be applicable to all types of roads on a needs basis.'

The Asphalt Industry Alliance produces the annual ALARM survey that identified the £12bn backlog on local roads in England and Wales and echoed the LGA's comments.

Chairman Alan Mackenzie said: 'We have long advocated the importance of security of funding and re-establishing the link between Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and the new National Roads Fund is a positive step. However, with money raised from changes to VED from 2020-2021 being directed into the strategic road network (SRN), there is nothing for the local road network to cheer about.

'Local roads represent 98% of the network and carry two thirds of traffic, yet receive a fraction of the funding allocated to the SRN. Figures show that over the next six years every mile of the SRN will receive £1.4m of funding while our local roads will see just £31,000 per mile and the chancellor’s budget does nothing to change this. This funding imbalance needs to be addressed now if the state of all our roads is to be improved.'

Mike Ashworth, transport board chair on the council directors' body ADEPT, said the Roads Fund was 'a good idea, but ADEPT are concerned that the new fund will only be used for the Strategic Road Network (SRN). The 95% of roads across the country that are not part of the SRN will suffer as a consequence as there is still a significant lack of funding for the roads ADEPT members are responsible for maintaining. However, both the principle and the investment are a positive step forward and we are keen to work with Government to address future funding.'

Equally in the private sector, Paul Fleetham, managing director of Lafarge Tarmac Contracting, said: 'The creation of a Roads Fund is one of the biggest reforms in the highways sector, which will help to instil more confidence in a sustained approach to investment. It supports the move away from a 'stop-start' funding cycle towards one that enables greater scope for proactive maintenance to improve our vital roads assets.

'Whilst further investment in the strategic network is welcome, Britain's local roads, which account for 98% of the UK's highways network, require the same focus and certainty of investment as part of an integrated approach to our transport infrastructure.'

Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) added: 'For many years we have called for the monies raised from road taxation to be ring-fenced and used for the purposes that the road tax was set-up for.

'Road taxes raise some £6bn a year whilst fuel duty raises a further £27bn. More of this money should be invested into long-term road maintenance that addresses the £12bn necessary to bring our road network up to a reasonable standard.'

The Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) added the announcement was a 'welcome shot-in-the-arm' for the sector stating that the latest RSMA survey of the road network found 'nearly half of all white lines on motorways, A roads and local authority roads worn out completely, or about to fail'.

 
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