In the wake of the UK Government’s Autumn Budget, the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT) has called for a systematic change to the funding of local roads maintenance in the UK, with a new sustainable long-term program.
Representing the strategic tier of local government within town, county and metropolitan authorities, ADEPT has made it clear that, although the recent budget announcement from Chancellor Philip Hammond is welcome, it offers little to support long-term planning. The Association has launched its policy position paper on local highways maintenance, calling for a sustainable long-term funding program. The paper also examines the role of the private sector and calls for a more innovative approach to procurement and working with corporate partners to create better value for money through increased collaboration.
ADEPT considers effective asset management to be the central plank of well-maintained roads, alongside long-term funding and investment in digital innovation. Its Department for Transport-funded £25m (US$32m) Smart Places research program, in partnership with SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business, EY, Kier, O2, and Ringway, illustrates the Association’s commitment to delivering new technology across local roads.
“The current system is broken. We have to stop trying to plaster over the cracks with short-term handouts and uncoordinated funding streams,” commented ADEPT’s president, Neil Gibson. “For some time now, the 300,000km [186, 411 miles] of local roads have been treated as a poor relation to the 7,000km [4,350 miles] Strategic Roads Network. The recent £420m [US$540.5m] announcement for repairs is welcomed, but it maintains the ‘sticking plaster’ approach that does little to tackle the fundamental issues faced by local highways authorities. Most journeys start and finish on local roads. Communities and businesses need reliable, efficient and well-maintained roads that are vital for economic growth. We recognize the good work the Department for Transport (DfT) has already done in developing an asset management approach, but the Government needs to go further and deliver funding mechanisms that support ‘place’.”
Mark Stevens, chair of ADEPT’s Engineering Board, said, “The challenges facing the local roads network are significant. There has been an increase of over 2.5 million vehicles on the roads in the last five years, and this trend is set to continue. The more extreme weather we have seen this year, with the ‘Beast from the East’ and higher than normal temperatures in the early summer, as well as the £9.3m (US$12m) repairs backlog, all add to the pressure on road quality. The Department for Transport’s [DfT] Road Investment Strategy (2014) recognized how sustainable investment in roads maintenance makes economic and environmental sense, but centrally imposed spending cuts lead to inevitable continued deterioration. At national level, this disconnect is the heart of the problem. We want to work closely with the DfT and the wider industry on how to make real, effective change in how we tackle the critical issue of maintaining local roads. In challenging times, it will take a whole-sector approach to examine each aspect; from funding mechanisms and delivery through to innovation, procurement and technology.”