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ALARM bells still ringing for local roads

More than half of the local road network in England and Wales is reported to have less than 15 years’ structural life left
More than half of the local road network in England and Wales is reported to have less than 15 years’ structural life left

Amount needed to fix backlog of carriageway repairs increases to record high of £16.3 billion

MORE than half of the local road network in England and Wales is reported to have less than 15 years’ structural life left as the amount needed to fix the backlog of carriageway repairs increases to a record high of £16.3 billion.

This year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey report, published today [19 March] by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), highlights the scale of the challenge that faces local authority highway teams who have a statutory responsibility to keep local roads safe but do not have the funds to do so.


Poor road conditions impact on our everyday lives, from the cost and inconvenience of damage to vehicles, to potentially causing accidents and injury to vulnerable road users such as cyclists – some of which have proven fatal.

Despite local authority highway teams reporting an overall increase in carriageway maintenance budgets, they have been hit by the impact of rising costs due to inflation, meaning they have been able to do less. This has been compounded by the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, which together are accelerating the rate at which the network is deteriorating.

ALARM data show that only 47% of roads in England and Wales are classed as being in good structural condition, with the remaining 53% – more than 107,000 miles – now having less than 15 years’ structural life remaining. And, surface conditions are also reported to have declined, despite a 40% increase in the number of potholes filled over the last 12 months, adding to the existing patchwork of previous repairs.

This year’s ALARM survey is the 29th and received responses from 72% of local authorities in England and Wales. It reports local road funding and conditions based on information provided directly by those responsible for their maintenance.

The findings, which relate to the 2023/24 financial year, show that in England and Wales:

  • Local authorities would have needed and additional £1.22 billion (average of £7.2 million per authority) just to reach their own target road conditions

  • It would now cost £16.3 billion to tackle the backlog of carriageway repairs and bring the network up to a standard from which it can be maintained efficiently and cost-effectively going forward

  • Less than half (47%) of all local roads are reported to be in good structural condition, meaning the remaining 107,000 miles (53%) could continue to deteriorate to the point of needing to be rebuilt within the next 15 years without appropriate maintenance measures taking place

  • £143.5 million has been spent filling in 2 million potholes over the last 12 months

  • Roads are only resurfaced on average once every 80 years.

Rick Green, chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, said: ‘It’s clear that there is still a mountain to climb when it comes to improving the condition of our local roads, which are a key asset on which we all rely every day.

‘The Government has recognized that fixing our roads is about more than filling in potholes with its announcement of the additional Network North funding in England. But, while the Transport Secretary stated that this additional £8.3 billion over 11 years is enough to resurface 5,000 miles of local roads, this equates to just 2.5% of the network – or less than 0.25% per year.

‘Unfortunately, it will do little to address the scale of the issue with ALARM findings reporting that 11% of local roads are already in poor condition and likely to require maintenance in the next 12 months alone.

‘That said, English authorities would be in an even worse position without this additional funding, so we sincerely hope that this promise is delivered on and that the Welsh Government honours its commitments to prioritizing highway maintenance.

‘We need to reach the point where local authority highway engineers are able to plan and proactively carry out maintenance work in the most timely and efficient way to the greatest benefit of all road users – rather than just having enough money to address immediate and urgent repairs.’

Local Government Association (LGA) transport spokesperson Cllr Darren Rodwell commented: ‘This report reveals in stark terms the huge challenge facing councils in maintaining the local roads network, which nearly everyone relies on. The backlog of repairs now stands at almost double the extra amount that government has promised over the next 11 years.

‘Inflation has eaten into councils’ maintenance budgets, meaning major resurfacing schemes designed to prevent more expensive repairs have had to be delayed or scaled back. Only with a long-term plan with year-on-year funding certainty can we begin to reverse this decline, bring our roads up to scratch, and save both lives and costs for all roads users.’

Steve Spender, chief executive officer of the Institute of Highway Engineers, said: ‘The ALARM findings are as important as ever as they highlight the challenge of maintaining local roads in the face of continually deteriorating networks impacted by changing weather patterns, resulting in damage to local roads due to flooding etc.

‘These challenges are further compounded by the effects on local authority budgets caused by high levels of inflation, resulting in a reduction in maintenance work local highway teams can carry out. With 53% of local roads now having less than 15 years structural life remaining, the shortfall in funding can only result in further deterioration and an increase in surface failures and potholes.’

The full ALARM survey report can be downloaded at:



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