Many councils are worried by the implications for the road network of this week’s Comprehensive Spending Review, which they believe could see transport budgets reduced, as part of local government budget cuts, by up to 40%. They fear this will result in a spiral of deteriorating road conditions which could be both damaging and potentially dangerous for the UK’s motorists. While this is a worry for councils in all areas, it is particularly of concern for rural councils where the road network is often the only means of transport in more remote areas.
Ten out of the 11 rural councils questioned reported that not all necessary road repairs had been carried out since the ‘Big Freeze’ last winter, while 75% of urban councils responding say this is the case.
The research also showed many councils had budget deficits as a result of road spending due to last winter’s damage, with individual shortfalls of up to £10 million. They fear they are running out of time to make repairs before another winter, leaving the road network vulnerable to further structural weakening.
The results of this survey highlight the views of motorists from the 2010 RAC Report on Motoring3 with 88% believing their local roads are getting noticeably worse.
A spokesperson for one rural council in England said: “Two severe winters in a row have taken a severe toll on our highway network with record numbers of potholes reported and highway maintenance increasingly on the agenda.
“The local highway network will continue to decline, more and more roads will fall into disrepair and reactive costs (potholes) will continue to climb reducing further the resources available for preventative maintenance.”
A spokesperson at a rural council in Wales said: “We are hopeful that MPs will be aware of the need for a fully functional network. Roads are a lifeline in this kind of area.”
A spokesperson for a rural council in Scotland said: “ is part of our annual plan for maintenance. This has increased from £5.96 million to £6.26 million. This small increase will not be sufficient to pay for the frost damage repairs. This is not the whole story because pothole filling or patching is not sufficient to repair many of the frost damaged roads, which require resurfacing.”
Adrian Tink, RAC motoring strategist said: “The latest ALARM4 survey advised that £9.5 billion is needed to bring the roads up to scratch, and that is in England and Wales alone. We are in difficult times, and I appreciate that spending cuts have to be made, but the long term impact of this could be terrible for the UK’s road users, particularly those in rural areas where roads are a lifeline.
“UK motorists pay an annual total of around £49 billion in motoring taxes, yet they face years of potholes and poorly maintained roads damaging their vehicles and drastically reducing road safety.”