A new inquiry into the funding and governance of local roads in England has been launched by the Transport Committee.
Local roads make up more than 97% of the total road network length and carry two-thirds of motor traffic and almost all cyclist movements.
However, the poor state of local roads has been a matter of public concern for several years, with potholes a particular problem.
According to Cycling UK, potholes have been a contributory factor in 22 deaths and 368 serious injuries to cyclists since 2007.
Many local authorities struggle to find the funding to repair roads often enough and to the required standards. An Asphalt Industry Association (AIA) ALARM survey showed English councils have seen a marked decrease in the frequency of road re-surfacing. On average, for all classes of road, this has dropped from once every 55 years to once every 92 years.
Transport Committee chairman Lilian Greenwood said: "Local roads are the arteries of prosperous and vibrant towns and cities. They are critical to the movement of goods as well as our own journeys. However, many people will not have to travel further than their local shops to see an extreme state of disrepair.
“This plague of potholes represents a major headache for all of us. The consequences of a deteriorating local road network are significant – undermining local economic performance and resulting in direct costs to motorists, through damage to road vehicles. The safety of other road users, particularly cyclists, is compromised.
“Our inquiry aims to investigate the situation in England, including current funding constraints and potential alternative models that could offer a solution. We know that this is a high priority issue among the public and I hope our inquiry will help put the onus on the Government to address it sooner rather than later."
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “This inquiry will be welcomed by drivers who have to endure the dire state of our local roads on a daily basis.
“We know that more drivers are suffering breakdowns than 12 months ago – and potentially expensive damage – as a result of poor quality road surfaces. But the reality is that potholes are dangerous to all road users, particularly cyclists.
“By 2020, major roads – motorways and major A roads – will benefit from ring-fenced funds as a result of the ring-fencing of vehicle excise duty for this purpose.
“It is vitally important, both in terms of keeping communities connected and for the long-term economic health of the country, that local roads are given similar priority. The current approach with inadequate central funding topped up by emergency funding for ‘pothole filling’ on a regular basis, is not sustainable.
“We need the same long-term strategic approach to fixing local roads that the government has implemented for maintain and developing the strategic road network.”
The Committee calls for written evidence on:
- The condition of local roads in England and how they have fared over time, particularly compared with other parts of England’s road network.
- The direct and wider economic and social costs of not maintaining local roads.
- The quality of monitoring and reporting of local road conditions.
- Whether the current approach to maintenance of local roads is appropriate and whether it needs to be improved.
- The suitability of governance structures for maintaining local roads and whether any changes are required.
- The funding requirements of local roads and the suitability of current funding streams for the immediate and longer-term future.
- Whether there is a role for alternative funding models for local roads maintenance and investment.
- The regional distribution of local roads funding across England.
To send a written submission to the inquiry on local roads funding and governance, click here.
The deadline for written submissions is Tuesday 2 October 2018.