Memorandum by the Department of the Environment,
Transport and the Regions (RM 09)
MAINTENANCE OF MOTORWAYS, TRUNK ROADS AND
LOCAL AUTHORITY PRINCIPAL ROADS
1. The Transport Sub-committee of the ETRA
Committee has resolved to conduct an inquiry into Road Maintenance.
The Sub-committee will consider:
the current state of repair of motorways
and trunk roads, and of local authority principal roads;
the steps taken by the Government,
Highways Agency and local authorities to ensure that such roads
are kept in good repair; and
what further steps should be taken
to bring roads in this country up to the best possible standard.
2. This memorandum considers these questions
in the light of the general policy approach, funding levels and
technical and institutional developments. It covers only the situation
in England. Road maintenance matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern
Ireland are the responsibility of the devolved administrations.
Motorways, trunk and principal road categories
3. For strategic and administrative reasons
roads are separated into motorway, trunk, and local road categories.
Motorways and trunk
roads are intended to cater for national and international strategic
requirements, and they comprise a network of high quality roads
for long distance journeys. The Secretary of State for the Environment,
Transport and the Regions has direct responsibility for these
roads (except for 45 km of local authority motorways in urban
areas). All other public highways in England are local roads,
and are the responsibility of the 149 local highway authorities
(county councils, metropolitan districts, unitary authorities,
London boroughs and Transport for London). The most important
local roads in strategic terms are principal roads. These are
defined by the Secretary of State and they complement the motorway
and trunk road network.
4. Primary routes are a system of signing
for long distance traffic (yellow lettering on a green background).
The primary route network is formed of trunk roads (but not motorways)
and the more important principal roads.
Size of trunk and principal networks and traffic
5. There are 2,800 km of motorways, 7,700
km of trunk roads and 26,000 km of principal roads in England.
Motorways and trunk roads carry 34 per cent of road traffic in
vehicle mileage terms, including 59 per cent of the heavy goods
vehicle mileage. Principal roads carry 30 per cent of road traffic
and 24 per cent of heavy goods vehicle mileage.
6. In the next few years about 30 per cent
of road network will be transferred to local highway authorities.
This will be handed over in good condition and with adequate funding.
7. Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 places
a duty upon all highway authorities to maintain the highways for
which they are responsible. Section 58 of the Act provides a defence
for highway authorities in an action against them for failing
to maintain a highway if they can prove that they had taken reasonable
care to secure that the highway was not dangerous for traffic.
8. The Highways Agency operates the motorway
and trunk road network on behalf of the Secretary of State. The
Agency follows UK engineering standards for these roads set out
in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB). The standards
are designed to ensure a consistent service level and safe highways
offering value for money, based on best practice, research and
consultation with professional bodies and industry.
9. There are no compulsory standards for
principal roads, but local authorities in practice tend to use
trunk road standards. However, a local authority Code of Good
Practice for Highway Maintenance was published in 1989 and is
currently under review.
10. Motorway and trunk road maintenance
is directly funded by central government. Principal road routine
maintenance is funded through Revenue Support Grant. An assessment
of the need for expenditure by each local authority on highway
maintenance to provide a standard level of service is an element
of the Standard Spending Assessment. Capital maintenance on principal
roads is funded through the Local Transport Plan (LTP) settlement.
11. In the 1998 White Paper A new Deal
for Trunk Roads in England the Highways Agency was given a
key objective for maintenance, namely to give priority to the
maintenance of trunk roads and bridges with the broad objective
of minimising whole life costs. In Transport 2010: The 10 Year
Plan the Government undertook to increase funding progressively
with the objective of enabling local authorities to eliminate
the local road maintenance backlog by the end of the Plan period;
to deliver substantial improvements in the condition of local
roads; and to maintain them on a basis which minimises costs over
time and the disruption caused.
12. The concept of minimum whole life costs
does not mean that all roads should be provided to "as new"
standards at all times. Rather, it means the provision of roads
to an optimal condition bearing in mind the volume and speed of
traffic that will use them, whilst minimising the costs of maintenance,
disruption and capital employed.
13. Roads have a finite design life but
to achieve that life it is important to carry out the right maintenance
treatment at the right time. If this is not done, deterioration
will worsen and subsequent remedial work will become more expensive.
For example, if a road is not resurfaced when rutting and cracking
indicate that it should be, water may penetrate the pavement structure
and result in complete reconstruction becoming necessary, at a
substantially greater cost than resurfacing. Maintenance work
that has not been carried out when it should have been leads to
the accumulation of backlogs.
14. Table 1 below shows highway maintenance
expenditure between 1994-95 and 2003-04. Capital funding indicates
structural renewal. Revenue funding indicates routine maintenance,
winter maintenance, and street lighting. Figures to 1999-2000
are outturn expenditure; figures from 2000-01 are expenditure
HIGHWAY MAINTENANCE FUNDING BETWEEN 1993-94
AND 2003-04 (£ MILLION CASH)
|Year||Motorways and Trunk Capital
||Motorways and Trunk Revenue ||Local Roads Revenue
||Local Roads Capital ||London Local Roads Capital
||Transfer to TfL for former Trunk Roads
1. Local road revenue figures include London throughout.
2. Other London Figures shown separately from 2001-02.
15. The provision for expenditure on motorways and trunk
roads in the forthcoming period 2001-02 to 2003-04 has reduced
because of the transfer of trunk roads in London to Transport
for London; better procurement practices; a reduction in the maintenance
requirement for trunk road and motorway bridges resulting from
a reassessment of risk; and research showing that a significant
proportion of motorways and trunk roads have a longer life than
16. Road condition has been monitored since 1977 by the
National Road Maintenance Condition Survey (NRMCS). This survey
has two basic elements for monitoring trunk and principal roadsvisual
condition and structural condition as measured by the deflectograph
(see paragraph 19 below). The latest available results are for
1999. The results of the 2000 survey will be available in April
17. Visual condition surveys on trunk roads and principal
roads look at rutting, cracking, and surface deterioration to
give a measure of surface and structural condition. (As these
surveys are carried out on foot, they are not appropriate for
motorways.) Visual surveys do not give an absolute indication
of condition, but are useful for monitoring trends both within
and between different road classes. The results for the last 10
years are shown below in Table 2. The indices show condition trends
for various road classes from a base of 100 in 1977. An increase
in an index shows deterioration; a decrease shows an improvement
in condition. It should be noted that the condition in 1977 may
not have been optimal.
NATIONAL ROAD MAINTENANCE CONDITION SURVEY VISUAL CONDITION
INDICES (1977 = 100)
||Rural Principal||Urban Principal
1 Results until 1996 are for England and Wales. Results
for 1997-99 are for England only
18. The results show that trunk road condition has remained
roughly constant since 1994, and is better than the early 90s
and the survey's 1977 benchmark. Likewise, rural principal roads
have also been in relatively stable condition since 1994 and are
appreciably better than the early 90s and the start of the survey.
However, urban principal roads have deteriorated sharply since
1995, and are now in their worst condition since the survey began
24 years ago.
19. The deflectograph has been used in the NRMCS since
1992. The machine measures the deflection of a flexible (i.e.,
asphalt) road pavement under a known axle load. From this deflection,
and knowing the construction of the road and the heavy goods vehicle
flow along it, the ``residual life'' of the pavement can be calculated.
When a pavement reaches zero residual life, this does not mean
that it is unserviceable. However, its future deterioration will
be unpredictable, and it will require close monitoring to determine
when major repairs will be required.
20. The advantages of deflectograph surveys are that
they can be carried out on motorways and that they allow indicative
comparisons between road types. Their disadvantages are that they
are less applicable to lightly constructed roads or to older roads
that were not designed to modern standards (in other words, most
non-principal roads), or to concrete or very heavily constructed
asphalt roads (an appreciable minority of motorways and trunk
roads). Nevertheless, they give a reasonable indication of the
condition of our most important roads. Table 3 below shows results
for the period 1993-99.
NATIONAL ROAD MAINTENANCE CONDITION SURVEY DEFLECTOGRAPH
RESULTS: Percentage with zero residual life and requiring close
21. Over the seven year period motorways have been in
consistently better condition than trunk roads, which in turn
have been in appreciably better condition than principal roads.
While motorways have been fairly stable in condition and trunk
roads have improved since the early 90s, principal roads have
worsened slightly over the period.
22. There are 9,700 bridges on motorways and trunk roads,
and about 24,000 on principal roads. The aim of structures' maintenance
is to ensure that they are safe, fit for their purpose and maintained
at minimum cost over time. Bridges on motorways and primary routes
(see paragraph 4 above) were required by EC Directive 85/3/EEC
(now 96/53/EEC) to carry 40 tonne vehicles with a maximum 11.5
tonne axle weight by 1 January 1999. This requirement was substantially
achieved; the few exceptions will soon be rectified and do not
cause any significant disruption.
23. Structures are regularly inspected and monitored
for signs of deterioration and distress. Strengthening is undertaken,
or other safety measures applied to a structure when it is unable
to carry the required loading. Any work that relates to ensuring
the continuing safety of a structure is termed "essential".
Applying preventative measures to a structure, such as the waterproofing
of bridge decks, has been shown to delay the need for essential
work and reduce whole life maintenance costs.
24. All strengthening works on motorway and trunk road
bridges work are programmed for completion by 1 April 2001, except
where structures are likely to be affected by the Targeted Programme
of Improvements or to meet other operational requirements. Nevertheless,
the whole programme is expected to be fully complete by 2003.
25. Information on principal road bridges comes from
the LTP submissions and surveys carried out by the CSS (formerly
the County Surveyors' Society). Nearly all assessments of whether
these bridges can carry 40 tonne vehicles have been carried out,
but about 900 remain to be strengthened. In addition, about 750
are in need of major essential maintenance.
26. There are 220 km of retaining walls on motorways
and trunk roads. On principal roads, there are about 300 km, mainly
in the hilly northern and western parts of the country. The LTP
submissions have indicated that some retaining walls on principal
roads are in need of strengthening and repair, and this problem
is being addressed.
27. Almost all lighting on motorways and trunk roads
conforms to, and is maintained to, national standards. On principal
roads, recent estimates by the CSS and the lighting industry indicate
that there are about 0.5 million street lighting columns on these
roads. Of these, about 125,000 are over 30 years old and 60,000
are in urgent need of replacement. A further 150,000 columns will
reach 30 years old over the next 10 years. Since the design life
of a modern column is about 25 years, this shows that there is
an urgent need to instigate a replacement programme for columns
on principal roads.
28. The Government has taken several steps already to
ensure good repair. The main elements to good maintenance are
adequate funding, strategic planning to achieve measurable objectives,
adequate technical support systems, and efficient procurement
29. In last year's Comprehensive Spending Review SR2000
and the formulation of the 10 Year Plan for transport, much effort
went into identifying the backlogs in maintenance and the funding
needs to be able to reach a situation where there was sufficient
funding in future to achieve minimum whole life costs.
Motorways and trunk roads
30. The Highways Agency collects comprehensive condition
data on motorways and trunk roads on a regular basis. This information
includes rutting, cracking, bumps, surface texture, skid resistance,
and deflectograph measurements. The data is analysed by a computerised
Network Model, which was developed by consultants for the Agency
and used in estimating funding requirements for SR2000 and the
10 Year Plan. The model was used to estimate the maintenance work
required to keep the motorway and trunk road network in a steady
condition, taking into account the most economic treatments and
minimising disruption to road users. It should be pointed out
that these estimates are based on the present state of knowledge
and rely upon factors such as future traffic flows and the behaviour
of materials that may change over time. The Agency carries out
research into traffic predictions, and new materials and techniques,
which allow it to update the model as necessary to get better
31. In these analyses, the actual severity of measured
defects is compared with the engineering standards. But not all
defects will require immediate treatment. For instance, a low
skid resistance may be occurring on an open stretch of road where
traffic rarely brakes and which has a low accident record. In
cases like these, remedial treatments may be delayed until the
skid resistance declines further or other defects appear. In other
cases, the defects may not be large or extensive enough to justify
a viable maintenance scheme. From its records, the Agency can
forecast the proportion of the network likely to require actual
maintenance compared to the proportion where the condition data
indicates maintenance may be required. (In recent years the Agency
has not been prevented from carrying out maintenance at the optimum
time by funding restraints. Therefore, where a site has been investigated
but no treatment resulted, it can be assumed that either no treatment
was required or that later treatment would represent better value
32. From the analyses, the Agency has calculated that
the motorway and trunk road network condition can be maintained
in its present satisfactory level at the future funding levels
in Table 1 above. In order to maintain the present standards,
the model indicates that at any point in time between 7 to 8 per
cent of the network will be in need of actual maintenance. This
has been set as a target in the Agency's Business Plan. It should
be emphasised that the funding and target relate to maintaining
the network in its present condition. The Agency is currently
undertaking research to determine what percentage of the network
would be left needing maintenance each year in order to minimise
whole life costs. That percentage may differ from the present
target of 7 to 8 per cent.
33. The situation is very different on local roads from
that on motorways and trunk roads. They are suffering from the
effects of considerable under-investment over many years, and
considerable backlogs of maintenance work have built up. In addition,
more funding is needed simply to ensure that further deterioration
does not occur.
34. Roads and footways: The results of the NRMCS
over the last three years were examined to estimate the costs
of rectifying existing defects using sensible treatments appropriate
to the class of the road. The backlog of work was found to be
some £2 billion. The breakdown of the backlog was:
35. The breakdown shows that non-principal roads account
for 84 per cent of the local road backlog compared to 16 per cent
for principal roads, and that urban roads account for 71 per cent
of the backlog compared to 29 per cent for rural roads. (These
proportions were used in the distribution of capital funds for
non-principal roads in the recent LTP settlement.)
36. In addition to the £2 billion, an analysis of
the relationship between past condition and funding of local roads
showed that around an extra £300 million a year was necessary
simply to prevent further deterioration.
37. Bridges and retaining walls: From the LTP
submissions and surveys by the CSS, of the 52,000 bridges on local
roads in England about 4,700 still require strengthening to take
40 tonne lorries. In addition 4,100 are in need of major essential
maintenance. (Figures for principal roads are given at paragraph
25 above.) The current funding levels will allow the strengthening
programme to be completed within five to six years; the essential
maintenance backlog, including retaining walls, was estimated
at £750 million.
38. Street Lights: Surveys by the CSS and the
lighting industry showed that there are some five million street
lighting columns in England of which 27 per cent are more than
30 years old. Of these 600,000 are in need of urgent replacement.
In the next 10 years an additional 1.6 million columns will reach
30 years old. (Figures for principal roads are given at paragraph
27 above.) To tackle the column replacements that are necessary
now and over the next 10 years will require approximately £1
39. The total provision for local highway maintenance
in the 10 Year Plan is £30.5 billion, including £9.2
billion capital funding and £21.3 billion revenue funding.
Compared to current funding levels, this represents an overall
increase of £9 billion (41 per cent). Capital maintenance
will increase by over £6 billion to tackle the backlogs above
and restore optimum conditions by the end of the Plan period.
Funding will be progressively increased over the 10 years to allow
local authorities and industry to gear up properly and spend wisely.
40. The first instalment of the extra funding has been
included in the SR2000 provisions and distributed through the
LTP capital settlement. In the latter, the indicative provision
for maintenance has more than doubled, and for the first time
includes extra funding for non-principal roads (over and above
that already provided through Revenue Support Grant) as well as
principal roads and bridges on all local roads.
41. The Highways agency has been given the strategic
aim of maintaining the motorway and trunk road network in a safe
and serviceable (available for use) condition whilst minimising
costs over time, disruption to road users and others affected,
and any adverse impact on the environment. This strategy is further
explained in the strategic plan for maintenance published in 2000,
"Making Maintenance the Priority".
42. As part of their LTP submissions, local highway authorities
are required to develop five year maintenance strategies and work
programmes for principal road maintenance and bridges. These aim
at progressive improvements in condition measured by performance
indicators. The strategies are required to relate to other transport
objectives and schemes, and take into account the needs of road
users and the environment.
43. In addition, under the Best Value regime local authorities
are required to have plans for all the services that they deliver,
including highway maintenance, and to review them at least once
every five years. Performance indicators, required to be produced
by the authority by statutory regulations, measure the improvements.
For maintenance, the indicators require comprehensive surveys
of principal roads and visual condition or residual life indices.
Other indicators relate to street lighting, removing dangerous
highway defects, and the cost of maintaining principal roads.
Performance indicators must be published annually, and audited
by the Audit Commission. Service reviews automatically trigger
an inspection by the Audit Commission.
Technical Support Systems
44. The Highways Agency has developed the Highways
Agency pavement Management System (HAPMS). This computerised
system, which includes the Network Model referred to in paragraph
30 above), has comprehensive procedures and documentation to ensure
that the pavement maintenance programme can be delivered in accordance
with the Business Plan target. To deliver value for money, individual
schemes are assessed to minimise costs over time whilst taking
into account the disruption to traffic. The data collection for
the system is being improved by the use of high speed vehicles
(TRACS) that measure rutting, cracking, surface profile, and surface
texture at normal traffic speeds.
45. The Agency also has a comprehensive computerised
system (Routine Maintenance Management SystemRMMS) enabling
all inspections, complaints and third party claims to be recorded
in conjunction with the inventory, other maintenance actions and
relevant data. Standard reports are available to audit the routine
46. The Agency is currently introducing the Structures
Management Information System (SMIS) to support new bridge management
procedures. SMIS will eventually contain all the key information
required to provide a high level view of the performance of the
national network's structures at any point in time. It is seen
as a starting point around which sustainable maintenance strategies
for structures can be developed. When implemented, SMIS will produce
a smooth, manageable and sustainable level of maintenance work
and expenditure into the foreseeable future.
47. DETR in conjunction with the Local Government Association
and DOE (Northern Ireland) worked over several years, and provided
funding, to produce a computerised system for managing local road
maintenancethe United Kingdom Pavement Management System
(UKPMS). The system is now in use, or being introduced, by many
local highway authorities. It allows standardised collection and
assessment of pavement and footway condition data, the prioritisation
of maintenance needs, and the development of programmes of work
based on economic principles. UKPMS also produces the Best Value
condition indicators that authorities are required to provide
for their roads.
48. The current Local Authority Code of Good Practice
for Highway Maintenance was produced in 1989. DETR and the Highways
Agency have been working with the Local Government Association
and the Northern Ireland, Welsh, and Scottish administrations
to produce a new code that is in line with service delivery instead
of inputs, and to take account of latest technical and management
developments. This new code will be published in early summer
this year, and cover pavement and footway maintenance. Last year
the CSS and the lighting industry introduced a new Code of Good
Practice for Street Lighting.
49. Research can produce radical improvements in highway
maintenance. Recent examples include thin surfacings, which are
much cheaper than conventional surfacing; better recycling techniques
for repairing worn out carriageways; and effective and durable
noise reducing surfaces.
50. In the past, the maintenance agents for motorway
and trunk road maintenance were local highway authorities or firms
of consulting engineers in metropolitan areas. There were some
80 agents in total. Since its creation in 1994, the Highways Agency
has reduced the number of maintenance agencies to 20, let by competitive
tender, mainly to the private sector, for a period of up to five
51. In addition, the Agency is moving towards performance
specified contracts with performance indicators set as benchmarks,
whereby the consultant/contractor undertaking Agency work is contracted
to achieve at least these minimum standards. Providers are encouraged
to achieve "a right first time" approach with a longer-term
objective of moving towards self-supervision. Their performance
is reviewed and audited and they are encouraged to improve performance,
year on year. These contracts are being introduced over the next
Design, Build, Finance and Operate (DBFO)
52. The Highways Agency currently operates eight DBFO
contracts signed in 1996. These contracts were an early success
in the adoption of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) in government,
and were the first significant PFI activity in DETR. The capital
value of these contracts amounted to some £600 million, and
the project payments/revenues are in Net Present Terms expected
to exceed £1 billion over 30 years. These contracts enabled
major capital projects to be delivered significantly earlier than
would have been possible with the budgets available at the time,
and substantial cost savings are estimated over conventional procurement
53. Private sector management offers the opportunity
for greater efficiency in maintenance management and cost control
while meeting defined performance requirements. A main advantage
of DBFO contracts is that contractors are locked into providing
a 30 year service. This means that investment decisions are made
with this long-term responsibility in mind. Construction, maintenance
and refurbishment activities are all driven by this responsibility.
This has resulted in some innovative solutions being adopted by
DBFO contractors. They were, for example, amongst the first to
introduce longer life roads, which minimise traffic disruption
caused by roadworks and reduce costs over time.
54. Historically, local highway maintenance work was
done in-house through Direct Labour Organisations. But, beginning
in 1980, by 1995 compulsory competitive tendering was required
for all local authority highway work, excluding emergency work.
55. That regime was changed on 1 April 2000 with the
introduction of Best Value. Best Value concentrates on service
delivery outputs rather than inputs. For highway maintenance this
means that local highway authorities are free to choose the method
of procurement (within the grounds of financial propriety and
regulation). However, they must plan to achieve continual improvements
in highway condition measured against national and local performance
indicators. The Audit Commission monitors their plans and performance.
The regime actively encourages local highway departments to increase
the efficiency of their procurement procedures, and to innovate.
Private Finance Initiative (PFI)
56. The Government's encouragement of public sector partnerships
with the private sector has lead several local highway authorities
to develop PFI maintenance projects. These are eligible for capital
credits to support an initial phase of renewal. Seven street lighting
projects have been approved, and one project in Portsmouth for
the maintenance of the whole of the city's highways over the next
57. As with DBFO projects, PFI maintenance contracts
actively encourage contractors to innovate and seek efficiency
gains in their work.
58. The measures outlined above in this memorandum show
the considerable measures that the Government has already taken
to move towards a best possible standard. Outlined below are some
of the further planned measures.
59. There is a need to rationalise the collection of
data and the assessment of condition and maintenance needs. Work
on this is progressing with a view to common methodologies, particularly
for motorways, trunk, and principal roads.
60. Rationalisation of data collection would mean that,
for instance, information on road condition would only be collected
annually by a local highway authority. It would then be used for
local management purposes, Best Value indicators, LTP monitoring,
and the NRMCS. A consultation relating to this approach regarding
the NRMCS is currently taking place.
61. New methods of collecting inventory data and condition
indicators for bridges and street lighting are being produced.
A code of good practice for local authority bridge maintenance
is being planned.
62. Work is continuing on developing new and better materials
and techniques for inspection and maintenance, as well as on environmental
improvements such as low noise surfacing and recycling.
63. In the past, projects and initiatives on highway
maintenance have been carried forward by project specific groups.
DETR is currently consulting the Local Government Association
on a more holistic approach. This envisages the setting up of
an "umbrella group" for highway maintenance that would
report to the existing Local Transport Liaison Group. The new
group would pull together the existing groups and initiatives
in the field, for example, those for the NRMCS, UKPMS, Best Value
indicators, new codes of practice, bridges, street lighting etc.
The group would have representatives from DETR, Highways Agency,
Local Government Association and Northern Ireland, Scotland and
64. This new arrangement should generate greater efficiency
in developing maintenance policy, and ensure that technical and
administrative improvements were introduced in a co-ordinated
24 January 2001
Throughout this memorandum "trunk road" means "all
purpose trunk road". Back