The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called on Chancellor George Osborne to use his forthcoming Autumn Statement as an opportunity to announce real action to tackle the UK’s crumbling road network.
The Statement, due on 4 December, provides an update on the Government’s plan for the economy based upon the latest forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility. “If the nascent recovery is to have any real momentum then it needs real investment and not rhetorical recognition of the importance of a well maintained road network to the national economy,” said Howard Robinson (pictured), RSTA chief executive.
During 2013, the Government finally seemed to acknowledge the parlous state of the road network and made headline statements about increased maintenance investment. However, as the year draws to an end the road network continues to deteriorate due to inadequate investment.
Despite local authorities spending £113 million on filling 2.2m potholes, the condition of the local road network has got worse. This has severe financial consequences with local authorities paying out over £32 million in compensation claims from road users for vehicle damage or personal injury – a 50% increase on the previous year. Even more alarming is the cost of the deteriorating road network for small and medium-sized businesses due to reduced productivity, increased fuel consumption, vehicular damage and delayed deliveries: £5 billion a year.
With the March budget it seemed with Chancellor George Osborne declaring the UK infrastructure as being the “economic arteries” of the country and the investment in the sector will “get growth flowing” to every part of the country, that the Government had recognised the need for real, long-term investment. The headline infrastructure investment announcement was an extra £3 billion a year from 2015-16.
“However, this is two years away with no guarantee as a new Government will then be in power. Investment in the crumbling road network is needed now not in two years’ time”, adds Robinson. “Furthermore, the extra funds announced fail to address the needs of the UK infrastructure when according to the annual state of the nation report by the Institution of Civil Engineers there is a maintenance backlog of £10.5 billion.
“This year has seen a number of announcements and declarations of the need to increase road maintenance funding. Yet, the overall condition of the road network continues to deteriorate. In the forthcoming Autumn Statement we need to see the rhetorical headlines become real action.”