The ‘biggest ever’ road resurfacing programme has been announced byn the government.

£8.3 billion of funds has been allocated by the Department for Transport (DfT) to improve local roads.

Coming down the line

Redirected funding from the cancelled phase 2 part of HS2 is being used, and it is claimed it will be enough to resurface more than 5,000 miles of road across the country over the next 11 years.

However, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) has previously reported the needs are much greater due to the lack of government funding for over a decade. The AIA annual report found that just half (51%) of local roads are in good structural condition. It concluded that more than 100,000 miles could continue to deteriorate to the point of needing to be rebuilt within the next 15 years. Immediate and   appropriate maintenance measures are required.

Government proposals for England should see local highway authorities receive £150 million this financial year. This will be followed by a further £150m for 2024/2025, with the rest of the funding allocated through to 2034.

Many commentators have described the move as part of government gearing up for an election campaign and general election in 2024.

Local and national

There is £3.3bn for local authorities in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber; and a further £2.2bn for local authorities in the West Midlands and East Midlands.

Finally, £2.8bn has been awarded to local authorities in the East of England, South East, South West and, for the first time in eight years, London.

Each local authority can identify and use their share of the £8.3bn to ay for work on the local roads most need of repair. It is hoped funding will be immediate in order to deliver significant public road improvements for local communities and residents.

“Well-maintained road surfaces could save drivers up to £440 each in expensive vehicle repairs,” says Prime minister Rishi Sunak.

“This unprecedented £8.3bn investment will pave the road for better and safer journeys for millions of people across the country and put an end to the blight of nuisance potholes.”

The funding comes on top of £5.5bn previously committed by the Government.

Damage prevention

Transport secretary Mark Harper added: “Most people travel by road and potholes can cause misery for motorists, from expensive vehicle repairs to bumpy, slow, and dangerous journeys.”

With intense pressure to improve popularity ratings for the incumbents, Harper added that it “shows that we’re on the side of drivers”.

But a lack funding over the last decade by a series of Conservative governments has left local roads in a perilous state.  RAC head of policy, Simon Williams, says that the poor condition of local roads is drivers’ biggest bugbear.

Williams admitted that this announcement “should give councils the certainty of funding they need to plan proper long-term road maintenance, something we have been calling for many years”.

He sees it as an important start for an ongoing, long-term delivery of roads maintenance. It will save “drivers hundreds of pounds in the process from not having to fork out for frustrating repairs to their vehicles.”

Local accountability

Local authorities will be required to publish information on their websites on a regular basis explaining how they are spending the funding in their area. It should mean the money is used correctly and that the worst roads are prioritised.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Perilous roads blighted by potholes are the number one concern for drivers and a major issue for bikers, cyclists and pedestrians.”

So far this year, the AA has attended more than 450,000 pothole-related breakdowns.

King describes the damage caused as “a huge financial burden for drivers”, adding that it “is also a major safety risk for those on two wheels”.

“As well as safer roads, eliminating potholes gives confidence to people wanting to cycle and instils pride of place within local communities.”

Damning report

This year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, published in March by the AIA, was damning of the state of England’s roads. It reported worsening carriageway conditions, and a required £14bn to fix the backlog of road repairs.

This finding announcement is half of this, but also spread over a decade. The AIA says it is a start but just not enough.

Almost one fifth (18%) of the network (almost 37,000 miles) is already assessed as having less than five years’ structural life remaining. With the lack of maintenance over more than a decade means the average frequency of resurfacing for all classes of roads now stands at once every 116 years.

Rick Green, chair of the AIA, described the funding as “good news”. Green believes it should allow longer-term maintenance planning and “improve local road conditions”. It should also “enhance the resilience of the network”.