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Road resurfacing and maintenance drops to five-year low

30 per cent less UK tarmac was resurfaced last year compared to 2018, as councils scrabble for cash

Road resurfacing

As well as failing to repair heavily damaged and potholed roads that are already in a dismal state, councils are also skipping crucial preventative road maintenance, the latest data provided by the government shows.

Analysis of the figures by the RAC shows the miles of road resurfaced or given life-extending surface treatments has dropped to the lowest number in five years, as just 1,123 miles of road received attention. When it came to surface dressing in particular, which is a preventative maintenance process designed to reseal roads and help defer the longer-term requirement for full resurfacing, just 3,551 miles of road were treated last year compared to 5,345 in 2018 - a 34 per cent reduction.

The RAC’s head of policy Simon Williams says the government figures “paint an incredibly stark picture of road maintenance in England and confirm our worst fears about the overall decline in the state of the country’s roads,” While acknowledging that there has been extra government cash to fill potholes, Williams points out that it’s the reduction in preventative works that is to blame for leaving drivers exposed to the risks of potholes and crumbling tarmac.

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 “It’s abundantly clear that councils in so many areas are barely scratching the surface when it comes to getting their roads up to a reasonable standard, and indeed the fact that such a large proportion haven’t done any surface dressing or resurfacing at all over a 12-month period really does say it all,” he says.

Back in March this year the Asphalt Industry Alliance ‘ALARM’ report calculated the backlog in spending required to bring UK roads up to scratch to be over £12 billion. However the RAC alleges this figure is “somewhat skewed towards full resurfacing and more could be done to improve driving conditions using more cost-effective surface treatments''. The cost of surface dressing is £5 per square metre, compared to £30 per square metre for conventional asphalt resurfacing, it says. According to the chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association, Paul Boss, surface dressing can extend the working life of roads by three or four times.

“There has never been a more important time to undertake preventative maintenance on roads in what we call ‘Green’ and ‘Amber’ conditions, even where pothole repairs may well be required before the surface dressing can be undertaken,” he says. “The preventative dressing on ‘Green’ and ‘Amber’ carriageways will keep them in a safe and serviceable condition, enabling authorities to manage their ‘Red’ roads that require high investment maintenance solutions such as complete resurfacing or reconstruction (recycling).”

Click here for our guide on how to claim pothole damage to your car...

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Current affairs and features editor

Chris covers all aspects of motoring life for Auto Express. Over a long career he has contributed news and car reviews to brands such as Autocar, WhatCar?, PistonHeads, Goodwood and The Motor Trader.

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