New statistics published by the Department for Transport (DfT) reveal a fall of more than a third in maintenance spending on motorways and major A roads in England over the first seven years of the decade.
The figures show that there are extreme pressures felt by highway managers who are tasked with maintaining the roads and keeping them in good working order – at a time when vehicle usage is continuing to rise – while the amount of money investing has fallen so drastically.
In 2009/10, maintenance spending on strategic routes such as motorways and A roads was in excess of £1.4 billion; however, just seven years later, that level was £896 million – a decline of 39%.
For local authority roads, the decrease isn’t quite as sharp, but it is a fall nevertheless; in 2016/17, £3.6 billion was spent on local authority roads, which is 13% less than approximately £4.2 billion in 2009/10.
In addition to the maintenance spending fall, it has been revealed that skidding resistance on principal local authority roads in England has fallen; of all the roads surveyed, 27% need further investigation, up from 23% earlier in the decade.
The condition of roads in England has been a source of criticism for some time now; poor weather at the start of 2018 resulted in an even bigger problem with potholes.
The government has committed further investment in the Autumn Budget to improving road conditions, but clearly more is needed.
And the Chair of the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning & Transport (ADEPT), believes investment in highways “remains the poor relation.”
He said: “As our road surfaces continue to wear away, skid resistance inevitably diminishes, so the task of keeping local roads safe becomes even more daunting.
“Even if central government was to double its current £1.2 billion annual investment in local roads, it would still take a decade to clear the road maintenance backlog.
“With growing financial pressures for adult social care and looked-after-children in conjunction with an ongoing squeeze on overall local government finance, highway maintenance remains the poor relation.”