Memorandum by Refined Bitumen Association
Funding of road maintenance and road improvements,
particularly for local authority controlled roads, remains a key
concern of the Refined Bitumen Association (RBA) following the
publication of the Transport White Paper and Roads Review.
The RBA recognises that the Government has already
increased the budget for trunk road capital maintenance from £200
million to £300 million in 1998-99 however, under the proposals
in the White Paper the national road network will be cut to 60
per cent of its current size. Local authorities will have the
extra burden of responsibility for 40 per cent of the current
national road network.
Each year the RBA carries out the Annual Local
Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey. Consistently, over
the past three years it has shown a £1.2 billion annual shortfall
between the funds available to local authorities to adequately
maintain their existing roads and the money actually required.
The Government's proposals, whilst pledging
a "new deal" for motorists with better maintained roads
and "increased resources both locally and nationally",
give no firm commitment regarding the levels of funds which are
to be made available for local authority-controlled roads.
Local authorities are currently responsible
for 95 per cent of the UK's roads. The RBA doubts that enough
funding will be made available to cover the annual £1.2 billion
annual shortfall in the maintenance budget for existing local
authority roads, let alone enough to cover the cost of maintaining
and, where necessary, improving the 40 per cent of the national
network it is proposed that local authorities will inherit.
Currently, only around 11 per cent of the money
raised in road-user taxation is spent on road maintenance. In
response to a written question from Nicholas Winterton MP, the
then Secretary of State for Transport, Dr Gavin Strang, stated
on 16 July, 1998: "In 1996-97 £2.28 billion was spent
on maintaining both the trunk and local authority road networks.
In the same financial year £21.1 billion was raised in road-user
The RBA believes that the only way to ensure
that adequate funds are safeguarded to maintain the UK's road
network to minimum safety and environmental standards, is to separate
Government tax on vehicle fuel into two elements: general tax
and "road charge". All revenue raised from the "road
charge" and from the road fund licence should go directly
to roads. The general tax element on fuel should continue to be
set by the Chancellor for general expenditure. A Roads' Regulator
should be appointed to ensure the fair distribution of road funds
between national and local services, regulate the "road charge"
and help establish an integrated transport system.
Whilst the RBA welcomes the commitment in the
Government's proposals on safety by properly maintaining roads,
and the commitment to reducing traffic noise by using noise reducing
road surfacings, again, the Association's concern is that there
is no guaranteed income stream to fund these noble proposals.
The Transport Research Laboratory estimates that improvement in
road surface skid resistance shows a saving of £5 in terms
of accident costs for every £15 spent on improvement.
It is clear that an integrated transport system
will be highly reliant on the road network. Hence, adequate maintenance
is essential, particularly if more two-wheeled vehicles are to
be encouraged. These are especially susceptible to the dangers
presented by poorly maintained roads.
Attached is a summary of the findings of
the RBA's 1998 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM)
survey which gives an indication of the extent of under funding
and its consequences.
25 September 1998
|Key findings of Refined Bitumen Association 1998 Local Authority Road Maintenance (Alarm) Survey|
(Before de-trunking as proposed in the White Paper)
|Average total local authority road maintenance budget per authority
||£10.97 million||£15.63 million
||£3.36 million||£4.54 million
|Average budget allocated per authority on structural maintenance
||£4.06 million||£5.78 million
||£1.18 million||£1.50 million
|Average shortfall between structural maintenance budget required to adequately maintain roads
||£7.09 million||£10.61 million
||£2.45 million||£2.09 million
|Average percentage used on reactive maintenance
||28 per cent||31 per cent
||28 per cent||20 per cent||24 per cent
|Average future frequency of road surfacing1 (10-20 years recommended depending on road type)
||115 years||142 years
||128 years||32 years||77 years
|Average percentage increase in visual defects2 over past 10 years
||81 per cent||91 per cent
||57 per cent||102 per cent
||22 per cent|
|Average increase in need for structural maintenance to roads over past 10 years
||106 per cent||111 per cent
||58 per cent||149 per cent
||30 per cent|
|Average percentage increase in claims by motorists against local authorities for damage to vehicles or road traffic accidents due to road structural conditions over the past 10 years
||85 per cent||120 per cent
||30 per cent||42 per cent
|Percentage of local authorities which think the current Government will spend enough4 to adequately maintain roads
||4 per cent||3 per cent
||17 per cent||0 per cent||0 per cent
|Percentage of local authorities which think the current Government will look after the roads the worse or same than the previous government
||77 per cent||87 per cent
||66 per cent||67 per cent||60 per cent
|Percentage of local authorities which would consider introducing tolls/road pricing to raise funds to be spent purely on roads
||27 per cent||34 per cent
||0 per cent||22 per cent||20 per cent
|1 Based on 1997-98 budgets. Results of the 1999 ALARM Survey available from the RBA.
2 Visual defects are defects which can be seen in the road structure and include cracking, deterioration, patching and potholes.
3 Insufficient data collected in survey to give representative figure.
4 Medium-term spend (2-5 years).