Headlines: March 24th, 2006

A motoring organisation is today highlighting the plight of local authority highway engineers who, it says, are fighting a losing battle to ensure the safety of Britain’s roads through proper maintenance schemes. The RAC Foundation says poor road surfacing is one of the five most common causes of motorcycle crashes, but councils in England and Wales get just a third of the budget they need to maintain highways to a safe standard.The Foundation says figures in the latest annual report on local road maintenance mean authorities can afford to resurface their roads only once every 56 years. All the Welch councils and 85 per cent of those in England that took part in the study agreed that the backlog of maintenance was putting road users’ safety at risk.

The Foundation is especially concerned about motorcyclists, which it says, rely on a good quality road surface which has high skid resistance, is clear of debris and has minimal over-banding around repairs. Sheila Rainger, Campaign Manager for the RAC Foundation, said the survey showed the depressing results of a decade of disrepair.

“Like all motorcyclists, I have had the frightening experience of being thrown out of the saddle by an expected pothole. Lucky bikers will get away with a dented wheel-rim or puncture, but others will find themselves sprawled on the road at the mercy of the traffic,” she said.

Highway engineers, she added, were fighting a losing battle to provide these basic safety requirements being forced by budget shortfalls to “patch and mend” rather than put long-term repairs in place. She went on, “Road maintenance is the Cinderella of local authority services. Good roads may not be seen as a vote-winner but investment in properly planned maintenance saves lives.”