National Pothole Day 2018 is another opportunity to focus on the challenges faced by the UK’s local road network, as well as reflect the sentiment of many people and businesses towards the condition of our roads.
In the UK – however parochial or trivial the issue may seem at first glance to some – the potholes we thud over in our cars or swerve around on our bikes threaten to rival the “never-ending winter” as a topic of conversation.
The majority of people outside of our industry are unaware (and you can’t blame them) that local authorities and highways contractors continue to face network decline due to long term underinvestment and public-sector cuts. As the local road network deteriorates, the cost of maintenance escalates exponentially and the impact of spending cuts creates a perfect storm for potholes.
There’s no silver bullet, but developments are afoot in some parts of the local road network that could deliver positive change.
The Government has outlined its plans for a Major Road Network (MRN) which will consist of the most strategic local routes in England. While the plans are currently out for consultation, more than £1bn a year could be committed in dedicated funding for local roads.
Positively, investment in the MRN is likely to be based on delivering projects which can prove to: reduce congestion; support economic growth; unlock housing delivery; provide tangible improvements for all road users and support the strategic road network.
Local Authorities will take primary control of the MRN, but will work in partnership with the Department for Transport, Highways England and regional bodies to coordinate delivery. While we will await the detail, this could potentially drive significant improvements into some parts of the local road network.
Pothole conversations will undoubtedly continue up and down the country, but, outside the highways industry circles, proposals for the MRN are unlikely to feature highly. The Government’s commitment to the MRN demonstrates an understanding of the economic importance of local roads as a key part of the UK’s overall strategic network and a driver of growth, as well as an appreciation of the road user experience and strong public sentiment.
By Paul Fleetham, Managing Director Contracting at Tarmac