Sir Christopher Chope MP
Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate
Andrew Bridgen MP
Sir Greg Knight MP
Michael Fabricant MP
Sir Bill Wiggin MP
Gavin Newlands MP
Lilian Greenwood MP
Gareth Bacon MP
Greg Smith MP
Malcolm Simms, Asphalt Industry Alliance
Ian Lancaster, Eurobitume
Stephen Webb, Institute of Highway Engineers
Martin Polland, Institute of Highway Engineers
Alex Guyver, Office of Sir Christopher Chope
Samantha Stagg, JRPR on behalf of Asphalt Industry Alliance
Robert McIlveen, Mineral Products Association
Sir Christopher Chope MP was elected chair of the APPG
Lilian Greenwood MP, Gareth Bacon MP, Greg Smith MP, Gavin Newlands MP and Lord Kirkhope were elected as vice-chairs of the Group.
Mineral Products Association was appointed secretariat, with Robert McIlveen as the named point of contact.
Following the formal business of the Inaugural Meeting, there was a wide ranging discussion. Malcolm Simms gave an overview of the recent ALARM survey, setting out the backlog and the growing cost of a one-off catch up rising to over £12 billion. (See his comments appended below.)
The proposal for an inquiry into the economic value of local roads was discussed, following on from the original discussion pre-Covid. While the problem was well understood, the members of the APPG felt that a focus on how local authorities could fund road maintenance should be a key focus, avoiding funding disappearing into other priority areas for local authorities but without simply wishing for a ring fence.
Other issues discussed included the question of what the ideal maintenance regime would be; technology developments; where the worst road or pothole might be; the importance of constituency or local authority-level data to enable MPs to campaign.
Sir Bill Wiggin offered to put down lots of Parliamentary Questions in support of improving the situation.
- Action: industry attendees to develop PQs
The meeting concluded with an agreement to issue a press release on the meeting.
Appendix: comments from Malcolm Simms to the group
Good afternoon, can I start by saying how good it is to be here – able to reconnect with Parliamentarians after so long due to the pandemic. We, the industry partners, look forward to working with you all towards achieving our shared aim of Better Roads.
Thank you too for the opportunity to share the findings from this year’s AIA Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (or ALARM) survey.
In case you are unfamiliar with the Asphalt Industry Alliance and what we do, we are a partnership between the Mineral Products Association (MPA) and Eurobitume. These are the trade associations for the aggregate and asphalt producing and laying companies and bitumen supply companies in the UK. We work together to promote awareness of the asphalt industry and its activities, as well as the uses and benefits of asphalt.
The cornerstone of AIA activity also involves highlighting the funding picture for local road maintenance and the resultant impact on conditions.
Each year we commission the ALARM survey, an independent survey of local authority highway departments in England (including London) and Wales to take a snapshot of the state of our local roads. It does this based on information provided directly by those responsible for its their maintenance and combines both quantitative and qualitative research.
This year, the 27th successive report, received responses from a record number of local authorities (73%), providing robust data for analysis and underscoring the value that those working in the sector also place on its annual findings.
The key headline from this year’s ALARM survey is that the backlog of carriageway repairs has increased by a staggering 23% on last year’s reported figure. Local authorities now tell us they would need to spend £12.64bn – as a one-off – to bring the network up to a condition that would allow it to be managed cost effectively going forward as part of a proactive asset management approach.
And, they also told us it would take them 9 years to carry out this work, if they had the surety of funding and resources to do so.
Against a backdrop of increased costs caused by inflation, the message from this year’s ALARM submissions is clear: those responsible for maintaining our local roads are fast approaching a tipping point.
Local authorities have a legal responsibility to keep our roads safe, but flat funding allocations to carriageway maintenance in real terms means they have to make difficult choices about keeping their networks open and safe today, versus improving structural resilience for today and tomorrow.
ALARM highlights that this reported backlog of carriageway repairs is now equivalent to £61,700 for every mile of local road in England and Wales…….
ALARM 2022 also highlights that it’s not just about a widening gap between where local roads are and where we would all like the network to be. This year’s survey also reported a big leap in average budget shortfall – the gap between the sums received in the last financial year and the amount local highway teams needed to prevent further decline. For the first time, the total annual in year shortfall exceeded £1bn, leaping by over 40% to £6.4m per authority.
Unsurprisingly, this challenging funding situation is having a negative impact on local road conditions. Local authorities reported that target road conditions remain out of reach, with no category of local road achieving the ideal Road Condition Index (RCI) profile.
Feedback highlighted that highway engineers focus on principal roads where some deterioration is present, taking steps to return them to GREEN condition, or a ‘good’ state of repair , if only temporarily. As a result, there are may be fewer miles marked as AMBER (where some deterioration is present) but this has been matched by an increase in those marked as being in poor – or RED – overall condition. As a result, this year an additional 3,500 miles of local road have been classified at RED meaning 11% of the local road network, or 22,600 miles, is now likely to require maintenance in the next 12 months.
This is the equivalent of travelling between London and Christchurch 215 times.
Well, that’s a lot of numbers thrown at you all to digest, so perhaps now is a good time to take a quick break and we’ll return to what we propose to do next…?