The 1998 Local Transport Survey, carried out by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), shows that the cost of the backlog of maintenance work on Britain's network of local authority roads has increased by 20% - for the second year running - to£4.9bn. This is equivalent to an average of approximately£160 per head for every road licence holder; the 1997 backlog, estimated in last year's ICE survey, was£4.1bn.
Said chartered civil engineer David Bayliss, chairman of the ICE's transport board: 'This is a crisis which must be dealt with, because badly maintained roads and foot-paths are more unsafe and more punishing to drive, cycle and walk on. By skimping on maintenance budgets the eventual cost of repairs will be much higher in the long run.
'Tackling this problem will require a substantial injection of resources. The government's White Paper on integrated transport published in July provided a framework within which the underfunding of transport could be corrected in the medium term. However, this new survey shows that the majority of local authorities have concerns about the ability of government to actively deliver adequate funding. Local authorities clearly place transport low on their list of priorities.
Some of the other findings of this national survey of local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland are:
- traffic growth and congestion are easing, although traffic levels continue to increase
- unclassified roads have the worst maintenance problem
- local authority transport professionals strongly support the principle of the government's reforms set out in the transport White Paper
- they are, however, concerned whether these reforms will be adequately funded and about the progress over implementing them
- they are concerned that the principle of earmarking transport revenues from road users for transport expenditure could lead to even heavier taxation of road users in the long run
- local authorities support the principle of taxing workplace parking but not road pricing
- the political priority of transport as an item of expenditure is expected to remain low for the foreseeable future.
1. 105 out of 200 local authorities responded, a response rate of 52 per cent; 79% of county councils in England responded. See attached list of respondents.
2. The survey was conducted by the ICE in October and November 1998.
3. The survey is confined to roads under the direct control of local authorities ie all roads, excluding motorways and trunk roads. They comprise over 96% of Britain's total road network.
LOCAL AUTHORITIES WHICH RESPONDED TO THE 1998 LOCAL TRANSPORT SURVEY (105)
COUNTY COUNCILS (27)
METROPOLITAN DISTRICT COUNCILS (15)
LONDON BOROUGHS (13)
Corporation of London
Hammersmith and Fulham
UNITARY COUNCILS IN ENGLAND (26)
Blackburn with Darwen
Isle of Wight
Kingston upon Hull
Redcar and Cleveland
Dumfries and Galloway
Isle of Anglesey
Neath Port Talbot
Vale of Glamorgan