Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Refined Bitumen Association (IT 74)

  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 taxation."


  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)

(exc. London)

Average total local authority road maintenance budget per authority £10.97 million£15.63 million £3.36 million£4.54 million £4.70 million
Average budget allocated per authority on structural maintenance £4.06 million£5.78 million £1.18 million£1.50 million £2.07 million
Average shortfall between structural maintenance budget required to adequately maintain roads £7.09 million£10.61 million £2.45 million£2.09 million £4.07 million
Average percentage used on reactive maintenance 28 per cent31 per cent 28 per cent20 per cent24 per cent
Average future frequency of road surfacing1 (10-20 years recommended depending on road type) 115 years142 years 128 years32 years77 years
Average percentage increase in visual defects2 over past 10 years 81 per cent91 per cent 57 per cent102 per cent 22 per cent
Average increase in need for structural maintenance to roads over past 10 years 106 per cent111 per cent 58 per cent149 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 cent120 per cent 30 per cent42 per cent 3
Percentage of local authorities which think the current Government will spend enough4 to adequately maintain roads 4 per cent3 per cent 17 per cent0 per cent0 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 cent87 per cent 66 per cent67 per cent60 per cent
Percentage of local authorities which would consider introducing tolls/road pricing to raise funds to be spent purely on roads 27 per cent34 per cent 0 per cent22 per cent20 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).

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