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ROAD FIGURES DODGE STRUCTUAL PROBLEMS

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Society disputes DfT report claim...
Society disputes DfT report claim

By Mark Smulian

Performance indicators are forcing councils to 'paper over the cracks' in their roads, while long-term problems mount, surveyors claim.

Highway maintenance budgets have been used to fix road surface defects and not deeper structural problems, because indicators are geared towards surface condition, said Matthew Lugg, chair of the County Surveyors Society's highway management group.

He made the comments as the Department for Transport published the 2005 National road maintenance condition survey, which shows a marked improvement in road surfaces since defects peaked in 2000.

Local Government Association environment board chair David Sparks (Lab) said: 'The results of the survey disprove many people's perceptions, and show the standards of local roads are improving.'

Mr Lugg, who is also director of highways, transport and waste management at Leicestershire CC, said: 'There is a lot of good news here on road surfaces, the government has put more investment in and that is showing through.

'But I would enter a health warning with regard to structural condition, which is getting worse.'

There are two comprehensive performance assessment indicators for highways, both of which concern surfaces.

'We are pleased highways has become part of the CPA, but it should reflect both surface and structure,' he said. 'We are papering over the cracks, as structural problems will eventually become surface ones.'

Highway maintenance resources were frozen in the 2004 spending review.

Mr Lugg said: 'We are up against social services when arguing for budgets, and with an ageing population, social service's demands will grow and highways could suffer.'

See www.dft.gov.uk

DfT survey results

>> The defects index for road surfaces was set at 100 in 1977 and hit 112.5 in 2000. Improvements saw it fall to 93.5 last year

>> The percentage of principal roads whose structure was poor enough to need close monitoring rose from 14.9 to 18.5

>> Deterioration in roadside pavements has halted

>> Maintenance spending fell by around 25% to£1.9bn between 1991-98, but rose to£2.7bn last year.

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