Memorandum by the Freight Transport Association
The Freight Transport Association welcomes this
opportunity to submit evidence to the Committee, for its inquiry
into road maintenance.
FTA's 11,000 members operate about 200,000 goods
vehicles and almost as many company cars. The level of service
provided by the road network is, in terms of reliability and predictability
of journey times of cardinal importance in sustaining efficient
supply chains for industryvital for our competitivenessand
effective business communications.
FTA represents the total freight transport interests
of trade and industry, as users of all modes of transport: road,
rail, sea and air. FTA's evidence to the Committee represents
road users. We do not represent those responsible for providing,
maintaining or improving roads.
The fundamental determinant in relation to road
maintenance standards is funding: its adequacy or otherwise, whether
for the national motorway and trunk road network or local roads.
Historically this has meant that standards of road construction
and maintenance have been determined not by rigorous and objective
criteria to define requisite funding levels, but by arbitrary
judgements related more to short term need and affordability.
Over many years this led inevitably to the position in 1999 when
the National Road Maintenance Condition Survey showed our road
condition was the worst since records began. Other surveys showed
that replacement cycles for everyday items like lamp columns were
running into centuries. It was also the year when Britain's special
10-year EU derogation to check that our bridges were safe to carry
modern traffic loading, including heavier lorries, endedwith
over one quarter of the bridge stock not even inspected.
In announcing his first spending review to Parliament,
the Chancellor said of Britain's transport in 1998:
"anybody who travels on our roads and railways
knows that after years of neglected and under-investment Britain
suffers from an overcrowded, under-financed and under-maintained
In December 1999, the Deputy Prime Minister
announced a commitment to a step change in investment levels to
address Britain's chronic problems:
"to transform our transport infrastructure
over the next 10 years and make Britain's transport system the
rival of any in Europe."
In July 2000 the Government announced its 10
Year Transport Plan. The Plan provides for significant increases
over the next decade in funding for the road network in England,
much of the increase focusing on road maintenance. FTA welcomed
the 10 Year Plan, but with two important caveats:
the levels of funding committed by
Government to restore the nation's roads to first class condition
must be delivered; and
even the significant increases in
funding, over 10 years, will not match the need, determined by
FTA and others.
"Stitch in time" programmes of preventative
maintenance make financial senserepairs can cost up to
nine times more if they are delayed, excluding the additional
costs of delays to travellers when minor repairs turn into major
The standards expected of routine maintenance
on trunk roads are set out in a Code of Practice. Similar standards
are set for winter maintenancegritting, salting and snow
clearing. Local authorities follow local practices but these are
similar to the national models.
Proper cyclical and preventative maintenance
improves safety on the roads and railways. For example ineffective
signalling; obscured, broken or illegible signs; poor lighting;
worn out skid-resistant surfacing or road markingsall these
are key safety components that must be in good order to prevent
death and injury.
The value added by efficient asset management
also has dimensions other than financial saving and saving in
death and injury costs. Broken streetlights and graffiti strewn
streets bring costs to society in other ways. At best they lead
to an unpleasant and untidy environment that fosters a downward
spiral of litter and filth; at worst they provide an environment
where our personal security is threatened.
But on Britain's streets, the elderly fear injury
from tripping over broken paving stones nearly as much as being
mugged. Today, some local authorities spend more on claims than
they do on repairing the footways.
A bridge assessment programme has also been
underway for some 15 years in order to check and strengthen bridges
to meet modern traffic loadings. A special 10 year derogation
from the EU to meet this requirement expired in 1999 but a quarter
of bridges have yet even to be inspected. Britain has developed
a culture of "patch and mend" over the last decade.
The computerised systems developed to implement structured programmes
of preventative maintenance have fallen into wide disuse in favour
of "crisis management".
As was demonstrated from 1977-80, improvements
in road condition can be implemented relatively quickly. A clear
target for restoring the condition of Britain's transport assets
is needed. Britain's National Road Maintenance Condition Survey
shows Britain's road condition is the worst since records began
in 1977. A target to restore road conditions to "steady state"
by 2004, to its 1980 level or better, is needed and thereafter
the level of defects should neither rise nor fall.
The programme to assess and strengthen bridges
should be 95 per cent complete in the same timetable.
The Highways Agency's Strategic Roads 2010,
sets out the Agency's high level strategy for our national roads
(England) over the next 10 years in response to the Government's
Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan.
FTA welcomes the Agency's commitment to:
"use to full advantage its professionalism
to ensure it delivers a strategic road network that provides for
safe and reliable travel and one that is developed and maintained
in a way which is responsive and sensitive to the needs of the
communities it serves".
For trade and industry in Britain, with its
overwhelming reliance on an efficient road network to underpin
its supply chains, this commitment is most welcome. But is must
We note the key short term targets set out by
the Highways Agency in Strategic Road 2010:
by 2001, upgrade the existing computer
based road pavement asset management system (Highways Agency Pavement
by 2001, put in place a computer
based road structures asset management system (Structures Management
by 2001, undertake 90 per cent of
routine maintenance works on the carriageway at times when the
roads are less busy;
by 2002, provide better information,
signing and traffic management techniques, where planned maintenance
works are likely to cause delays of more than 10 minutes; and
by 2002, upgrade the computer based
routine maintenance asset management system (Routine Maintenance
We also note and welcome the Agency's concern
to ensure that maintenance works are carried out with the minimum
impact on its customers. We support the Agency's plans to:
increase the use of mobile lane closures
to minimise the time taken and disruption caused during short
duration routine maintenance;
provide better information and signing,
including initiatives like "zip merging" to minimise
unavoidable delays and make queuing more efficient and less frustrating;
continue to use incentives/penalties
to encourage contractors to reduce the time taken to do the work,
and thereby minimise the delays to road users.
The Highways Agency says it will continue to
make maintenance its priority over the next 10 years, with a maintenance
programme of around £7 billion between 2001 and 2010. While
this is a substantial programme FTA is not confident that it will
be sufficient to fulfil the Government's pledge to "transform
our infrastructure over the next 10 years and make Britain's transport
system the rival of any in Europe".
In May 2000 FTA, in partnership with the AA,
CBI and CPT published Investmentwhat needs to be done:
building a transport system to rival any in Europe. The document
sets out a review of the major sectors of transport that have
to be addressed, with the requisite budgetary framework, to deliver
the Government's 10-year pledge. It estimates that, over the next
decade, investment of £8.9 billion for national road maintenance
and £2.95 billion for national road bridges, totalling £11.85
billion, will be necessary.
Clearly this is substantially greater than the
Highways Agency's £7 billion 10-year investment plan. Continuing
vigilance by both the Government and the Highways Agency will
be of paramount importance in ensuring that as the Agency rolls
out its 10-year maintenance programme it remains on target to
deliver the Government's pledge. If it becomes apparent that further
increases in funding are necessary to deliver that pledge, the
Government must be prepared to contemplate such increases.
As mentioned earlier, Britain has developed
a culture of "patch and mend" over the last decade,
in response to sustained underfunding for long-term maintenance
strategies. This has been particularly marked in relation to local
roads: 96 per cent of the total road network which is the responsibility
of local highway authorities.
FTA welcomed the doubling in the budget for
repairing local roads in England, announced by the Government
on 13 November 2000. Five hundred and thirty five million pounds
in 2001-02 and £555 million in 2002-03 will be made available
to local authorities to spend on highway maintenancewhich
the Government says will be enough to start restoring:
270,000 km of local roads;
The Government has promised that for the remaining
three years of the full five-year Local Transport Plan settlement,
authorities will receive at least 75 per cent of their allocation
for road maintenance in 2002-03this commitment will enable
authorities to plan their longer-term maintenance strategies with
However, while FTA welcomes both the significant
increase for funding of local road maintenance, and the Government's
longer-term commitment, there remains the question as to whether
this will be sufficient to enable local authorities to fulfil
their role in delivering, for the 96 per cent of the network for
which they are responsible, a transport system the rival of any
FTA maintains a database of key indicators within
the Local Transport Plans produced by local authorities in Britain.
In England, of 63 LTPs examined by FTA, covering the period 2001-02
to 2005-06, 36 authorities expressed concern about inadequate
funding for road maintenance, and 32 authorities expressed concern
about inadequate funding for the bridge assessment and strengthening
We hope that the significantly increased funding
now available for local road maintenance will enable the rapid
and sustained progress in local road condition which is so urgently
needed. We have already referred to the estimates of funding required
for national roads over the next 10 years. The same document,
Investmentwhat needs to be done, estimates that
over the next decade £32 billion will be required for local
road maintenance. This is substantially greater than is currently
planned, even with the significant increases announced by Government.
As with national roads it will be of paramount importance to ensure
that the step changes needed to improve the condition of local
roads are delivered and sustainedand the funding necessary
The Government announced, in A New Deal for
Trunk Roads, that about 10 per cent of the existing trunk
road network in England will be progressively de-trunked, with
responsibility for maintenance and improvement transferred to
the relevant local authority.
FTA understands there is continuing concern
by local authorities that transfer to them of new responsibilities
for maintenance and improvement of de-trunked roads may not be
accompanied by the necessary increase in funding. This is potentially
of serious concern to FTA as the Government has stated that routes
to be de-trunked will retain their primary route status: they
will remain part of the national strategic road network. The entire
primary route network comprises all non-motorway trunk roads together
with a substantially greater and complementary network of non-trunk
principal roads. All primary routes, trunk and non-trunk, are
indicated by the familiar green primary route signing and as such
are indistinguishable to the driver.
The primary route network is effectively the
national strategic network for lorries and it is essential that
those parts of the trunk road network to be de-trunked not only
retain their primary route status, but are adequately funded,
to enable local authorities assuming responsibility for them to
maintain and improve them as consistent with their continuing
role as part of the national strategic network.
FTA appreciates that the Committee's inquiry
relates to road maintenance in England. However, the road network
in England is an integral part of the network across Britain and
indeed the UK, with vehicle ferries linking the mainland network
to Northern Ireland. FTA's concerns and aspirations regarding
the network in England extend to the network throughout the UK.
This evidence is from FTA, representing road
users, not those responsible for providing, maintaining or improving
Road maintenance funding must be determined
by need, not arbitrary, short term considerations of affordability.
The Government has promised to transform our
transport infrastructure over the next 10 years and make Britain's
transport system the rival of any in Europe. This is reflected
in the Highways Agency's 10-year strategy for national roads in
The Government must ensure that the Highways
Agency is enabled by adequate funding and resources, to deliver
its 10 year pledge.
FTA welcomes the significant increase in funding
for local roads. However, this may still be insufficient to enable
restoration of the local road network to first class condition
over 10 years.
Where local authorities are assuming responsibility
for roads to be de-trunked, this must be accompanied by sufficient
funding to enable their continuing maintenance and improvement
commensurate with their role as primary routes.
While the Committee's inquiry is concerned with
road maintenance in England, the issues extend to the road network
throughout the UK.
Note: The following sources have been relied
on in producing this evidence.
Investmentwhat needs to be done.
Joint report by the FTA, AA, CBI and CPT.
Strategic Roads 2010. Highways Agency.