This year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey* reports that one in five local roads are now classed as being in poor structural condition due to a lack of sustained investment in the network.
ALARM 2020 findings show that the green shoots of improving conditions reported the previous year have not been sustained. Local authorities reported cuts to their overall budgets and this resulted in a knock-on for highways maintenance pots – down by a reported average of 16% in England and Wales – as cashed-strapped authorities made increasingly difficult decisions on how reduced funds should be allocated.
The proportion of highway maintenance budgets spent on the road surface and structure itself has also fallen, as local authorities have had to spend more on other parts of the asset, such as bridges, cycleways and drainage works, to cope with the effects of an increased incidence of extreme weather events on an ageing network. This has led to a widening funding gap in the amount needed to maintain the carriageway to target conditions.
The March 2020 Budget included pledges for an additional £2.5 billion for English local roads over five years. ALARM 2020 highlights that this will not be enough to plug the shortfall in annual carriageway maintenance budgets and is a fraction of the estimated £11.14 billion needed across England, London and Wales to bring local road networks up to a level from which they can be maintained cost-effectively going forwards.
*Now in its 25th year, the independent survey aims to take a snapshot of the general condition of the local road network in England and Wales, based on information provided directly by those responsible for its maintenance. The data received from local authorities provides a means of tracking any improvement or deterioration and the qualitative feedback received provides context. The full 2020 ALARM survey is available to download at www.asphaltuk.org
The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Highways has issued a report highlighting how the use of Warm Mix Asphalt (WMA) can reduce carbon emissions and improve efficiencies on highways projects.
WMAs are manufactured and laid at lower temperatures than traditional asphalts, using less energy and delivering meaningful carbon savings without compromising performance. Their use can reduce CO2 emissions associated with asphalt production for road maintenance and construction projects by around 15%, depending on product and plant.
The use of WMAs also improves conditions for the workforce, plus, as less time is required to cool to trafficking temperatures, carriageways can be re-opened earlier – minimising disruption for road users. WMA already accounts for around 40% of production in the USA and over 15% in France, yet remains under-utilised in the UK, where it represents less than 4% of asphalt production.
Sir Christopher Chope OBE MP, Chairman, APPG on Highways, said: “Everyone has a part to play in tackling environmental issues for future generations and the majority of UK councils have already declared ‘climate emergencies’. This report aims to encourage those authorities which have responsibility for highways to put their support for environmental measures into practice without delay.”
This year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey reports early signs that an increase in local authority highway maintenance budgets is beginning to stem the decline in the condition of the local road network.
Nevertheless, increased investment is still falling short of the amount needed to maintain local roads to target conditions, with years of underfunding leading to a local road network on the edge and a one-time catch-up cost which continues to rise.
For the second consecutive year, ALARM reports that local authorities’ highway maintenance budgets have increased by almost 20 per cent. For councils in England and London this included a share of £420 million additional funding allocated in the November 2018 Budget.
The Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) latest ALARM survey reports that that you could drive around the world on the length of local authority roads that could fail in the next 12 months – with cash-strapped local authorities reporting that more than 24,400 miles of road could need maintenance in the next year.
Now in its 23rd year, ALARM also highlights that the gap between local authority highway maintenance funding in 2017/18 and the amount needed to keep the carriageway in reasonable order was almost £556 million. This is equivalent to a shortfall of £3.3 million for every local authority in England and Wales.
It would now take 14 years and more than £9.3 billion to get local roads back into a steady state, if adequate funds and resources were available.
The Department for Transport has published a new strategy explaining how local roads will benefit from a multi-billion-pound investment fund and the proposed creation of a major road network.
The strategy will be funded by reallocating some funds raised by the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), with the aim to improve connectivity of towns and cities across the country.
Its proposed creation of a new major road network would see a share of the annual National Road Fund, funded by VED, given to local authorities to improve or replace the most important A roads under their management.
New skills survey calls to make the highways sector fit for the future
A survey by Highways UK into UK skills highlights that 71% of people working within the highways sector are concerned that staff shortages within their organisations could impact on the future delivery of client programmes. 61% of respondents to the survey expect their companies to decline opportunities to tender for work due to insufficient internal resources.
Writing in the report’s foreword, Tricia Hayes, the Department for Transport’s Director General for roads says: “Thanks to this survey, the highways sector knows where it needs to focus its efforts in detail. I am particularly struck by the need to tackle the lack of diversity. We have to do this if we are to access the full spectrum of talent that we need.”
March 28, 2017 – Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey 2017
The Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) latest ALARM survey reports that that within the next five years one in six of our roads will need to be repaired, or even closed. The cumulative effect of an ageing network, decades of underfunding, increased traffic and wetter winters has led to around 17 per cent of all local roads reported as being in poor structural condition, with less than 5 years of life remaining.
The 22nd annual ALARM Survey ALARM also reports local authorities need over £12 billion to bring the network up to scratch – a figure that has remained largely unchanged for four years. The gap between the amount councils received and the amount they say they need to keep the carriageway in reasonable order is now almost £730 million.
The UK Roads Liaison Group (UKRLG) has published an updated Code of Practice following a two year review.
‘Well-Managed Highways Infrastructure’ was commissioned by the Department for Transport with input from an extensive range of stakeholder organisations including the Institute for Highways Engineers, ADEPT, SCOTS, CIHT, Transport for London and CSS Wales.
The non-statutory Code offers updated advice to reflect the latest developments in the maintenance sector – reinforcing the strides made through the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP). It replaces three previous sets of guidance: Well-maintained Highways, Management of Highways Structures and Well-lit Highways, which will cease to be valid from October 2018.
The overarching principal behind the development of the new Code is the need to deliver a safe and well-maintained highway network through the adoption of an integrated asset management approach to highways infrastructure through risk-based assessment.
The Rees Jeffreys Road Fund publishes its report on A Major Road Network for England.
Report authors David Quarmby and Phil Carey set out that the Strategic Road Network (SRN) doesn’t comprise all the roads that matter in supporting England’s regional economies and supporting growth. They identify a further 3,800 miles of local authority-controlled ‘A’ roads, which, alongside the SRN, forms an 8,000 mile Major Road Network (MRN).
The report proposes a consistent, joined up approach to the planning, management and funding of the MRN on a regional basis, allowing local authority major roads to have a planning regime and funding certainty similar to that enjoyed by Highways England for the Strategic Road Network (SRN).
European research shows that smoother roads can reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles by around five per cent, highlighting the need for road maintenance to be part of any strategy to reduce road emissions.
The research was carried out by members of FEHRL (Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories). It adds weight to the call from FEHRL – along with EAPA (European Asphalt Pavement Association) and EUPAVE (European Concrete Paving Association) – for increased investment in roads and greater alignment of policies on CO2 with those for upgrading and maintenance of roads.
The findings show that the condition of the road surface directly influences vehicle fuel consumption: if the surface is in poor repair, fuel energy will be wasted. ‘Rolling losses’ include energy used in overcoming the effects of unevenness, joints and rutting through suspension systems and from high rolling resistance at the tyre/road interface. In addition, a road network which is allowed to deteriorate will also lead to higher road maintenance or reconstruction costs over the long term – contributing to further CO2 emissions.