Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by CSS (RM 07)


  1.1  The CSS, formerly known as the County Surveyors' Society, was formed in 1885 and is a body which represents the Directors of Highways, Transportation, Environment, Waste Disposal and Economic Development functions throughout the UK. CSS membership is primarily the Chief Officers of the local Highway Authorities in England and Wales, and the Department of the Environment (Northern Ireland) Roads Service.

  1.2  The opportunity to be consulted on road maintenance is welcomed by CSS. Previous evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee in 1996 relating to the UK Road and Bridge Maintenance Programme was well received, particularly with reference to the significant research work being commissioned by CSS on road maintenance.


Evidence to 1996 House of Commons Transport Committee relating to the UK Road and Bridge Maintenance Programme

  2.1  Conclusions from the evidence were that:

    (i)  the County Surveyors' Society shared the concerns of many other associated groups that current levels (as then) of highway maintenance funding would lead to deteriorating highway conditions and subsequently lead to even higher levels of funding requirements to repair failed roads;

    (ii)  independent research commissioned by CSS was leading to the conclusion that the deterioration in highway conditions was not yet being identified in survey information;

    (iii)  a new approach would be needed from Government to ensure that sufficient resources were targeted at maintaining road infrastructure and retaining its asset value. This could lead to ring fencing of appropriate expenditure or indeed a re-examination of the current review of capital bidding and allocation systems;

    (iv)  unless there was intervention in the current (as then) system, highway conditions would fall further. Expenditure would increasingly be spent on day to day measures and "fire fighting" remedial action at the expense of essential structural maintenance work.

    (v)  funding of the bridge strengthening programme was such that the programme was not likely to be completed until 2005-06, seven years after 1999 when changes to the allowable heavy weights limit would occur; and

    (vi)  lack of funding from the Government via the existing funding process for bridge preventative maintenance would have serious consequences for the residual life of the bridge stock.

  2.2  The Transport Committee in their final report noted that the Department of Transport should take account of the CSS studies.

Studies Carried out by the CSS

  2.3  The three major studies completed following the evidence heard by the Transport Committee found that:

    (i)  Highway Maintenance Funding Study (Coopers and Lybrand): there had been a 7 per cent reduction in Highway Maintenance Standard Spending Assessment provision 1991-96 and there was a "time lag" of three to four years between reductions in maintenance funding and evidence of road deterioration.

    (ii)  Spending and condition of the Principal Road Network (WDM): structural condition had deteriorated 1994-96 and there would be a further deterioration without significant increase in funding.

    (iii)  Highway Condition Information (Transport Research Laboratory): there was a significant increase in the percentage of road network needing maintenance and there were increased road maintenance needs.

  2.4  Key issues and conclusions arising from the studies were that a strategic approach and capital investment strategy were needed for road maintenance, the yearly funding exercise was inefficient and there were major savings by spending properly.

Extent of this Inquiry

  2.5  The table below sets out the relative significance of the major categories of roads by three criteria—length, volume and HGV use (GB at 1999).
Road type% of length % of flow (in terms of billion vehicle km) % of use by "HGV" traffic (Goods Vehicles >3,500 KGs gross)
Motorways118 38
Trunk317 26
Principal1029 21
Minor Roads8636 15
Total100100 100
Total % in Inquiry14 6485
Total % in LA Control96 6536

  Source: Derived from Transport Statistics Bulletin; Road Traffic Statistics 1999 at Tables 4.1; 2.1 and 1.4 (DETR)

  2.6  As may be seen from the above table, the inquiry is focused on motorways, trunk roads and principal roads, some 14 per cent of the total road network. There is concern that the remaining 86 per cent of the network, all of which is in local authority control, is not included. It is this part of the network which is in the worst condition, having not had the funding levels associated with principal roads, trunk roads and motorways.



  3.1  Coopers and Lybrand, in their study of highway maintenance funding carried out for the CSS, found the system to be complex and difficult to penetrate.

  3.2  Highway maintenance funding for non-principal roads and routine maintenance on non-principal roads is addressed through the Highway Maintenance Standard Spending Assessment (HMSSA) of some £1,800 million per annum. It also covers traffic and safety management work. This kept up with neither inflation nor traffic growth during the 1990s and resulted in a real cut in funding over that period. There is no ring-fencing of revenue to ensure that the SSA provision is spent on roads.

  3.3  Relevant to this inquiry, capital expenditure to maintain and strengthen principal roads and bridges is covered by separate capital allocations from government. These virtually halved in the 1990s but are now back to some £250 million per annum.

  3.4  Government proposals to increase capital allocations to cover both principal and non-principal roads are set out in paragraph 5 of this evidence.

  3.5  Although local government in general spent at HMSSA levels and at capital allocation levels during the 1990s, deterioration was still evident in the highway network.

NRMCS: National Road Maintenance Condition Survey (NRMCS): Condition of Principal Roads

  3.6  NRMCS is an internationally unique survey of the ongoing condition of roads in Great Britain, which has been carried out annually for nearly a quarter of a century. The survey is carried out and steered by DETR, local authorities and the Highways Agency collectively. Its purpose is to record the condition of roads on an historical basis at the national level. It does not compare condition to any adopted standard nor does it compare one agency or authority within another, though this capability is planned in the future. NRMCS is being overhauled and aligned with the United Kingdom Pavement Management System (UKPMS) (see paragraph 3.10 to 3.12 below). On Principal Roads, both visual and structural surveys are carried out.

Visual Survey

  3.7  Urban Principal roads are in the worst condition they have been since the survey began and, as shown in the trends for the last 15 years, have been deteriorating steadily since 1995.

  3.8  Rural Principal roads, on the other hand, have been steadily but slowly improving and are the only category of local authority roads showing an improved trend.

Structural Survey

  3.9  Over the seven year length of the structural survey, the percentage needing close monitoring has worsened from around 13 per cent to around 15 per cent but this deteriorating trend has now stopped. A comparison may be made with those trunk roads which are A roads and generally accepted to be in a realistic good steady state. On these roads about 7.5 per cent has been the norm for several years for the percentage requiring close monitoring. In other words, double the percentage of local authority A roads are on the verge of distress compared to Trunk Road A roads.

UKPMS: United Kingdom Pavement Management System

  3.10  In the context of UKPMS, "pavement" is the structure of the highway, not that part of the highway used by pedestrians. For many years, highway authorities have used various pavement management systems (PMS) to prioritise maintenance works on principal roads, using objective surveys and analysis to identify sections of road in need of repair.

  3.11  UKPMS emerged as a concept about a decade ago to provide consistent UK wide pavement management standards and to enable strategy analysis across the whole network, which would allow answers to questions such as: "What is the correct budget level to maintain the network to a given standard?"

  3.12  The implementation of UKPMS is dealt with later in paragraph 5.

Condition of Bridges

  3.13  There are more than 10,000 bridges (with span of 1.5 metres or greater) on the local authority principal road network (LA PRN). The replacement cost of a typical bridge is in the order of £300,000. This figure does not include the cost of public utility service diversions, traffic management nor traffic delay costs as the extent and severity of these items will vary greatly depending on location. The vast majority of bridges on the LAPRN remain in unrestricted service and carry full highway loading.

  3.14  However, many bridges are in need of extensive maintenance works and several await strengthening of 40 tonne capacity. The level of funding provided in recent years for bridge maintenance has fallen short of that required and the condition of structures has deteriorated. Assuming that, for the LAPRN, the average maintenance "backlog" is £7,000 per bridge this indicates a total current maintenance liability of £70 million.

  3.15  Many LAPRN bridges have been strengthened in recent years as part of the national bridge assessment and strengthening programme. The programme was initiated in response to a European Directive to provide transport routes for 40 tonne lorries. Structures that still await strengthening or replacement are generally kept in service by the application of weight restrictions or the use of interim measures eg a special regime of bridge inspections.

  3.16  When implementing maintenance strategies of 10,000 bridges on LAPRN have generally been afforded greater priority in accordance with road hierarchy. Local authorities currently fund bridge maintenance from a mix of revenue and capital sources.

Street Lighting: Condition of Columns

  3.17  Serious problems are developing nationally due to the ever increasing age and associated deterioration in the condition of the UK lighting stock. There are some 6.2 million street lighting columns in the UK which represent a replacement cost of say £4,000 million.

  3.18  It is estimated that the recent annual spend on replacement has been around £40 million nationally which equates to a replacement rate of 1 per cent or a column life of 100 years. Based on a 25 year design life, a replacement rate of 4 per cent would be required.

  3.19  Whilst these figures relate to the whole UK lighting stock, the principles are equally applicable to the Motorways, Trunk and Principal Roads where the consequences of a failure are in fact potentially more serious. One successful personal injury accident claim of the order of £1 million would be enough to replace 1,700 lighting columns.

  3.20  As a result of the size of the backlog and continued deterioration of the lighting stock, it is essential that those columns most at risk are identified. Column inspection, testing and replacement programmes need to be planned on the basis of priorities established using appropriate risk management techniques.


Local Transport Plans (LTPs)

  4.1  The five-year plans provide for a longer term, more strategic view and the settlement for government provides greater certainty of capital funding for local authorities. Provisions in the Transport Act 2000 making LTPs statutory will further reinforce their importance. The LTP process brings together both capital and revenue funding, combining highway maintenance, revenue support for public transport and capital investment. In their advice on the content of LTP's, the government states that for highway maintenance:

    —  LTPs must include a strategy for highways maintenance and bridge strengthening. This should state clear objectives and set out the criteria that the authority will use in allocating resources.

    —  Allocations for maintenance will be based largely on an assessment of need.

    —  We will continue to monitor the condition of the local road network. For highways maintenance, condition surveys similar to those that authorities already carry out for the National Road Maintenance Condition Survey will be necessary as a basis for the implementation of Best Value.

    —  We expect authorities, in managing their bridge stock, to give continued priority to bridge strengthening, particularly on the primary route network.

    —  Following increased resources given in the 2000-01 local transport capital settlement, authorities should be able to continue to make substantial progress in strengthening weak structures on the primary route network and other principal roads.

Performance Indicators

  4.2  Local authorities are required to report Best Value Performance Indicators (BVPIs) on highway maintenance in their annual Local Performance Plan submissions to government.

    —  BVPI 93 Cost of highway maintenance per 100 km travelled by a vehicle on principal roads. The definition includes structural and routine maintenance elements.

    —  BVPI 96 Condition of principal roads. The percentage where structural maintenance is urgently required.

    —  BVPI 105 Damage to roads and pavements. Based upon the percentage of reported dangerous defects repaired/made safe within 24 hours of authorities becoming aware of the situation.

  4.3  A BVPI for street lighting is currently being developed by DETR for future use.

  4.4  There are no comparable BVPIs for motorway and trunk roads. De-trunking will further complicate any time series comparisons. However, the National Road Maintenance Condition Survey (NRMCS) does allow comparison:


Recent announcements by Government on increases to funding

  5.1  The capital allocations for individual authorities in 2001-02 and 2002-03 for local road and bridge maintenance were announced in November 2000. In answer to a Parliamentary Question, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, Mr Keith Hill, said:

    "As set out in `Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan' we are committed to providing sufficient funds to tackle the backlog of expenditure on carriageway, footway, bridge and street lighting maintenance, estimated to be £7 billion in the next 10 years. In the forthcoming Local Transport Plan settlement we will provide £535 million to fund capital maintenance works on local highways in 2001-02 and £555 million in 2002-03. These are increases of 103 per cent and 110 per cent respectively compared with 2000-01. We have extended the settlement to cover non-principal roads as well as principal roads and bridges.

    These capital resources provided through the Local Transport Plan settlement are in addition to the support for local highway maintenance provided through Revenue Support Grant."

  5.2  It is clear that these additional resources have significantly increased funding for non-principal roads maintenance in addition to providing a very welcome, though smaller, increase in principal road funding. However, no commitment has yet been made to fund street lighting renewal. An allocation must be included from 2003-04 onwards.

  5.3  There is no evidence at this stage to indicate whether this new funding is sufficient to tackle the backlog on principal and non-principal roads in the next 10 years, or arrest deterioration over the next three years.

UKPMS—United Kingdom Pavement Management System: Implementation

  5.4  The implementation of UKPMS, as set out in paragraph 3, is now underway. With the adoption of UKPMS data standards in the BVPIs for principal and non-principal classified roads, local authorities have been given the impetus required to commence surveys and set up systems. LTP submissions received in 2000 confirm that the overwhelming majority of local authorities are using or intend to use UKPMS for the assessment of future needs and the planning of maintenance programmes. The full implementation of UKPMS will extend over several years.

  5.5  However, there is already a fully functioning UKPMS available to local authorities and reasonable choice of supplier who can offer different forms of technical and presentational add-ons and links into related highway management systems such as inspections, bridges and street lighting.

  5.6  In preparing for future LTPs, local authorities will not be able to submit bids in accordance with government guidance unless they are using UKPMS to assess and analyse their network properly both strategically and for best value.

Code of Good Practice

  5.7  In the second half of the 1980s the Local Government Association's predecessors, acting together in the face of high levels of variability in highway maintenance standards and procedures, produced "Highway Maintenance: A code of Good Practice". It embodied good practice and resulted in high levels of consistency of approach to deliver good quality

  5.8  Ten years later, the Code principles still apply but CSS recognised that it needed reviewing, as new and improved concepts were improving processes whilst the standards were increasingly unattainable in the financial climate then prevalent. CSS was sufficiently concerned to invest its own research funds into the review and was successful in taking the concept forward with the assistance of DETR and LGA in supporting the emerging Best Value Regime. The revised Code will become "Delivering Best Value in Highway Maintenance" and will stretch the old Code by including best practice on public consultation, service delivery methods, pavement management systems and serviceability which emphasises public rather than professional objectives and performance management. Launch date for the new Code is June this year.


  6.1  Studies carried out by CSS have revealed deterioration in the local road network over the 1990s, with evidence of such deterioration taking some three to four years to be identified following significant reductions in highway maintenance funding over this period by government.

  6.2  Such evidence based information, from the National Road Maintenance Condition Survey, is strongly supported by CSS, who have supported development of the United Kingdom Pavement Information System. Inclusion of such data based information in future local authority Local Transport Plan submissions to government is also strongly supported.

  6.3  Increases in capital allocations from government for highway and bridge maintenance over recent years, particularly the substantial increases announced in November 2000 are welcomed. There is however, no evidence at this stage to indicate whether this new funding is sufficient to tackle the backlog on principal and non-principal roads in the next 10 years, or arrest deterioration over the next three years. Equally important is the current production of a new highway maintenance code of practice which will ensure best value is obtained from highway maintenance delivery.

  6.4  Additional funding has not yet been identified by government to address the serious condition of street lighting stock and this is awaited in the near future.

January 2001

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