6 August 2018 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Local authorities could mitigate the rising cost of highway repair and maintenance by employing simple preventative solutions, according to road reinforcement experts.
The claim comes as the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey reports total carriageway maintenance expenditure across England and Wales in 2017-18 was about £1.93 billion - an increase on the previous year's £1.66 billion.
The survey, published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, also highlights a gap of £3.3 million between the funds that local authority highways teams in England and Wales received in the past 12 months and the amount needed to keep the carriageway in "reasonable order".
One in five of local roads in the UK is now deemed to be structurally poor, meaning it has less than five years of life remaining, show reports.
Taking a longer-term, preventative approach to road maintenance would reduce the need for regular remedial work - a regular drain on local authority budgets.
Jochen Bromen, application technology manager of Asphalt Systems at pavement reinforcement specialist Tensar, said: "Anything that represents a more permanent repair - rather than patching - is a good thing: the taxpayer benefits, the local authority can spend money on more road maintenance or infrastructure projects, motorists face fewer repairs to their cars, and the total economic impact is ultimately reduced."
One pothole is now filled every 21 seconds in the UK, and although the government's Pothole Action Fund recently injected an extra £100 million towards the repair of affected road surfaces, following a winter of severe weather conditions, the Local Government Association says funding "will provide just over 1 per cent of what is needed to tackle our current £9.3 billion local roads repair backlog".
Combined with rising asphalt costs, innovative approaches are increasingly needed to further safeguard the UK's highways.
A composite paving grid can effectively mitigate reflective cracking in new pavements caused by joints or cracks in the old structure.
"The technology combines the reinforcing function of a grid with the stress-relief and interlayer barrier function of a paving fabric," said Bromen. "This type of maintenance solution is simple and economical and can extend the operating life of a road, reducing whole-life costs."
The ALARM survey also found a huge disparity between recommended frequency of road resurfacing work and the current reality. It is advised that resurfacing should occur every 10 to 20 years. However, the reporting of such activity has plummeted to once every 92 years in England.
"Without sufficient funding to properly resurface the UK's roads within the recommended time frame, councils are left facing hefty road repair bills, which add up to more in the long run," Bromen added. "It's like re-icing a cake that's crumbling underneath - an unsustainable solution."
"By taking a whole-life approach to road maintenance and investing in the correct technology to extend their lifespan, local authorities will realise huge long-term savings."