Fleet News

Safety under threat as potholes get bigger

ROAD-user safety is being threatened and has led to a 50% rise in claims against local authorities for accidents and damage to vehicles as the Government continues to under-fund road maintenance, it has been claimed. With the Government raising £35 billion in road-user taxation, and local authorities spending about £1.6 billion in 2000/01 on road maintenance, a 'radical review' of Government funding has been demanded.

The calls for improvements to the structural state of Britain's roads are made in the sixth Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance. AIA chairman Julian Peake said that despite Government assurances of greater funding of road maintenance, local authorities, which are responsible for 95% of Britain's road network, receive only a third of what they need to adequately maintain roads - a shortfall of about £1.3 billion a year.

And 80% believe the under-funding is creating a threat or major threat to road-user safety. It is calculated that about £1 million a week is being paid out by local authorities or their insurers in injury or damage claims from road users, who have suffered as a result of poorly maintained roads. Overall, local authorities are spending 28,000 days a year dealing with such claims.

Peake said: 'Despite Government promises in its election manifesto to improve road maintenance, four years later money is not yet reaching those who are looking after our roads. If the Government has made more money available then it is not getting to the right people and the whole system needs a radical review.'

According to local authority highway engineers, under current budgets, roads can be resurfaced on average once every 87 years instead of the recommended 10-20 years. RAC Foundation executive director Edmund King said: 'The massive hike in compensation paid out by local authorities would suggest that the Government finance is not yet reaching those who are looking after our roads. We must not allow poor road maintenance to jeopardise safety. Motorists have paid for our roads many times over and deserve a better quality of service.'

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