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