More than seven out ten councils say the condition of local roads, footpaths and cycleways in their areas has got worse over the last year. A report from the Institution of Civil Engineers also says local authority transport experts’ estimation of the political management of national transport issues is at an all time low.The ICE’s 2003 ‘Local Transport Survey’ has found that the road maintenance backlog has increased by about 12 per cent over the last year from 7.4 billion pounds in 2002 to 8.3 billion now. The report says, though, that detailed benchmarking is unacceptably difficult as there is no single commonly accepted method of assessing the state of the nation’s roads.The Institution says, too, that the poor state of the local highways network – on which three-quarters of all journeys are made – is being made worse by evidence that local authorities are not spending their full budget allocations on maintenance because of demand for money to be spent in other areas.
The government’s Transport Plan, published in 2000, set out to end the deterioration in local roads by 2004 and eliminate the maintenance backlog by 2010. The ICE survey, however, has shown an increase in the backlog for virtually every year since it was first conducted in 1996. Asked to rate the commitment and quality of leadership in transport policy from the government, 79 per cent of those surveyed said either ‘very disappointing’ or ‘disappointing’ and two thirds felt the system for funding road maintenance was very poor.
The ICE is calling for the commitment to eliminating the structural and environmental maintenance backlog to be backed up by action with revenue and capital funding for transport ring-fenced. It is also supporting moves to introduce a consistent methodology to measure road quality and calculate the budget required to bring the network up to an acceptable standard so realistic targets can be set and met.