Drivers are having to contend with more than 3 million holes in local authority roads in England and Wales, it was revealed today.
While roads suffer from around a million potholes, there are a further 2.5 million road openings made during streetworks by utility companies, a report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) found.
The alliance’s report also said there was a shortfall of more than £1 billion in highway maintenance budgets and an 11-year backlog of maintenance work.
Some roads faced a 65-year wait for resurfacing, while local authorities estimated they were receiving only half the budget they needed to keep their roads in reasonable condition.
The AIA statistics included figures showing there were an average of 4,268 potholes per local authority in north-west England in 2006/07.
This region includes Blackburn, famous for the line in the 1967 Beatles song A Day in the Life which talked of ‘4,000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire’.
The report said that £53 million was paid out in compensation claims for damage to vehicles or road traffic accidents due to road structural conditions across England and Wales in 2006/07.
Compensation paid in one year for damage caused by the state of roads
AIA chairman Jim Crick said: ”Despite some increase in central government funding over recent years, it seems that highways maintenance is still suffering from historically being treated as the Cinderella service.’
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘Since 2002 the government has more than trebled funding to local authorities for investing in their roads.
‘We recently announced a three-year settlement which will mean funding of £809 million in 2010-11, up from £265 million in 2000-01, in addition to funding also provided for routine maintenance.
‘We want local authorities to implement a system of regular, well-managed maintenance – not to leave things until they deteriorate to the point that repairs become urgent and more costly.’
Councillor David Sparks, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: ‘To clear the backlog of potholes, councils would need an extra £200 million a year from the government for the next few years. In certain parts of the country the money councils have received from central government has been lower than expected.
‘The impact across England varies, but in some regions authorities are having to make tough choices between caring for the elderly, repairing the roads and council tax rises.’
He went on: ‘Councils will use new powers to manage when and where utility roadworks are carried out. Authorities will use the new permits to crack down on utility companies who fail to complete works on time or flout the conditions set out in their permit. For too long utilities have been given a free hand to dig holes in the road with little consideration to the congestion and disruption this causes.
‘There’s also the cost to council taxpayers, because authorities are left to clear up after the utility companies have moved on.’
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