London 2012

The severe winter weather that hit much of the country earlier this year wreaked havoc on local roads. More funding, according to Councillor Peter Box CBE, Chair of the Local Government Group Economy and Transport Programme Board, is critical for better roads and community safety.

Councils, which are responsible for more than 95 percent of the road network, filled more than two million potholes last year and face an enormous task this year to keep roads safe after the coldest December on record.

Following the harsh winter of 2010/11, the estimated additional cost of road repairs is £362 million, on top of the £400 million in winter damage from the previous year. The damage this year occurred at a time when councils are being forced to reduce highway maintenance budgets due to reductions in central government funding to councils. So it’s good news that the government listened to us and included an extra £100 million in the Budget for councils to deal with road damage. The additional funding comes on top of the £100 million announced in February, giving councils a total of £200 million to fix potholes.

This will allow councils to prioritise road repairs, which are increasingly causing concern in their communities. The Department of Transport has informed councils of the amount of funding they will receive, and repairs will take place over the next six months. Councils must also publish a statement on their website detailing how the funding was spent by September 30, 2011.

While the additional funding for potholes is much appreciated, there is a much larger challenge in ensuring the long-term funding of road maintenance at a time when public sector budgets are being squeezed. There is currently a £10.5 billion backlog in road maintenance. The Department of Transport’s funding for councils to repair roads will be reduced by 19% over the next four years, with councils receiving £165 million less per year by 2014-15. In 2011/12, local government faces a £6.5 billion funding gap between what it spends on frontline services and what it receives in revenue. With rising costs for child protection, adult social care, and waste management, councils will be unable to make up the funding gap for road repairs.

In these trying times, we must all work together to develop and share more efficient approaches to road maintenance. Councils are already becoming more efficient; the cost of repairing a pothole has dropped by one-third since last year, falling from £78 per pothole in 2009/10 to £53.81 per pothole in 2010/11. The Local Government Group and councils are fully engaged in the Department of Transport’s Highways Efficiency Programme, which captures and shares innovation in techniques, procurement, and equipment, in addition to the Group’s larger efficiency programme for councils.

The Local Government Group is also advocating for broader reforms that will assist councils in improving road conditions. For starters, we want the government to give local governments more leeway in raising funds for road maintenance. We are pleased that the government has given councils the ability to borrow against future income from new development taxes, but we will continue to advocate for the elimination of separate bid-based funding pots and the localization of business rates as part of the government’s review of local government finance.

Second, councils require greater authority to recoup the cost of local road damage and to manage the disruption caused by utility streetworks. The New Roads and Streetworks Act of 1991 empowered the Secretary of State to make provisions allowing councils to collect a “bond” or deposit from utility companies in order to recoup costs more easily if remediation works were not completed properly. The Traffic Management Act of 2004 added a provision allowing councils to require an undertaker to perform full or half road width resurfacing after their works.

Councils want both of these powers to be implemented in order to limit the long-term costs and disruption caused by streetworks.

Many of us will soon enjoy smoother journeys on our roads as thousands more potholes are filled, thanks to additional government funding and the hard work of council employees. Councils are committed to providing an ever-better deal for taxpayers and will continue to make difficult decisions to keep our roads in the best possible condition. However, the magnitude of the road maintenance backlog, combined with unprecedented budget pressures, means that central government must grant councils the freedoms and powers they require to direct funds to the transportation issues that are most important to their local communities.

ALARM Survey 2011

The results of the 16th annual local authority road maintenance (ALARM) Survey revealed a significant deterioration in local road condition, with the number of potholes exceeding two million for the first time.

Three years of severe winter weather have revealed the fragile state of the local road network, with road surfaces across the country visibly deteriorating to a serious degree. Except for one ALARM survey respondent, the prolonged freeze of early 2010 had a negative impact on their roads.

According to the ALARM survey 2011, the cost of the 2010 winter damage was estimated by local governments to be £362 million, which was added to the cost of the previous year’s winter damage of £400 million.

Between March 2010 and March 2011, successive governments made an additional £300 million available to assist local governments in repairing severe damage to their roads. A significant funding shortfall indicates danger. Authorities continue to report an annual shortfall in the central government’s highway maintenance budget. This year, it amounts to £895 million, a 12% increase over last year’s shortfall. When asked to estimate the amount of one-time investment required to restore their roads to reasonable condition, local authorities estimated that £10.65 billion (across England and Wales) would be required. This is a £1.15 billion increase over the previous year’s estimate. 90% of local governments believe that underfunding of highway maintenance programmes endangers road user safety.

Colin Loveday, Chairman of the AIA, expresses the industry’s growing concern: “Local governments are doing their best, but reactive maintenance – such as simply filling potholes as they appear – is at least 20 times more expensive than planned preventative maintenance.”

“The annual budget shortfall has increased this year, and spending review cuts imply a potential loss of £440 million over the next four years.” The extra £200 million announced in February and March of this year is welcome, but if the government wants to save money, it should invest in local roads now to avoid a massive repair bill later.”

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According to Loveday, potholes are frequently a symptom of more serious underlying issues: “After several years of wetter winters and serious summer flooding that undermines the integrity of the road’s structure, our local road network is at its most vulnerable.”

The 2011 ALARM survey also asked highway engineers to assess the condition of their roads’ structural layers. In England, one in every five local roads was deemed to be in poor condition, with a life expectancy of less than five years. In Wales, 17% of roads were deemed to be in poor condition, while in London, 25% were deemed to be in poor condition.

CASE STUDY

Cold weather comfort – repair and relax

We’re all aware of what’s left behind when the snow melts in the road maintenance industry. However, as the negative publicity surrounding the increasing number of potholes in our road network continues, we must remember that freezing weather also causes other maintenance and safety issues, such as collapsed or failed ironwork.

Many highway repair issues, most notably potholes, are caused by the freeze-thaw cycle. Cracked road surfaces, on the other hand, indicate the breakdown and failure of carriageway ironwork. This freezing weather, combined with a variety of other influencing factors such as larger payloads and a 135% increase in traffic volume over the last 30 years, has resulted in an increase in collapsed manholes and gullies.

Faulty ironwork causes a slew of issues, including traffic accidents and noise pollution, not to mention the significant disruption to traffic flow while repairs are made.

The UK has over 6 million manhole covers, and it is estimated that over 70,000 of them are replaced each year, at a cost of more than £40 million! Furthermore, up to 85 percent of manholes exposed to heavy traffic fail in one or more ways, and it is estimated that replacing them all would cost more than £3 billion!

The cost of replacing failed and collapsed ironwork is included in the highway maintenance budgets of local governments, along with pothole repair and resurfacing.

A 20% cut in these budgets was recently announced across the UK, so quick, easy, and cost-effective solutions are essential. Ultracrete can help with these repair issues by providing independently tested and certified systems and solutions for road repair projects.

Currently, manhole cover repairs are done on a reactive basis, frequently relying on the problem being reported in order for it to be addressed. As a result of this approach, assessing and managing their state of repair becomes increasingly difficult, and failures continue to occur. It also makes calculating and justifying spending to the regulator more difficult.

Permanent Pothole Repair, which was launched just over a year ago, has already assisted in the successful repair of thousands of potholes and has recently undergone testing for HAPAS certification through the BBA!

This is a significant accomplishment because it is the FIRST TIME A POTHOLE REPAIR MATERIAL HAS BEEN CERTIFIED! The BBA will make the official presentation on the first day of the Traffex exhibition at 11 a.m. on stand K31. The award will be accepted by Ultracrete’s mascot, Pothole Pete.

Ultracrete’s Permanent Pothole Repair has been specially formulated with fully graded, high PSV interlocking aggregate, specially prepared bitumen, and the most advanced industry technology to ensure strong flexibility and the best product performance. It has a high skid resistance value (SRV) of 88, which improves safety while also providing exceptional durability and rut resistance for up to 12 months and beyond. Permanent Pothole Repair now has improved workability, allowing it to be used directly from the tub, even in cold and wet conditions. The product’s simple application method allows any contractor to repair potholes quickly and effectively.

Last Updated on December 28, 2021

Indra-Gupta

Author: Indra Gupta

Indra is an in-house writer with a love of Newcastle United and all things sustainable.

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