HS2 billions to be poured into potholes as new road repair fund announced
Cash from the ‘biggest-ever’ road improvement budget boost will pay for 5,000 miles of new tarmac in the UK
The government has re-allocated £8.3bn of funding previously earmarked for the High Speed Rail 2 extension to Manchester to local road repairs, with Transport Secretary Mark Harper calling its move “the biggest ever funding uplift for local road improvements”.
The announcement has been welcomed by motoring organisations and the road repair industry, who say the new eleven-year commitment on funding will provide councils with the certainty they need to plan effective maintenance and end the scourge of pothole-infested roads.
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As part of the hand-out, local highway authorities will receive £150 million in this financial year, followed by another £150 million in 2023/24. The rest of the new roads maintenance fund will be allocated to 2034, the government says, adding that local councils will be able to identify the local roads most in need of repair, and deliver “immediate improvements for communities and residents”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hopes that using part of the money he’s saved by scrapping the northern extension of HS2 to rescue the UK’s crumbling local road network will pay dividends with voters. In a recent poll the Automobile Association found 96 per cent of drivers said fixing potholes and investing in roads maintenance was a priority, while the RAC’s data shows drivers face pothole damage bills of up to £440 if they need repairs to suspension components, and counts the current annual cost to drivers at around £200million across the country.
“For too long politicians have shied away from taking the right long-term decisions to make life easier for hardworking families – tackling the scourge of potholes being a prime example,” Sunak said, adding: “This unprecedented £8.3 billion investment will pave the road for better and safer journeys for millions of people across the country and put an end to the blight of nuisance potholes.”
Harper claimed the new funding demonstrates that the government is on the side of drivers: “Most people travel by road and potholes can cause misery for motorists, from expensive vehicle repairs to bumpy, slow, and dangerous journeys,” he said. “Today’s biggest ever funding uplift for local road improvements is a victory for all road users, who will enjoy smoother, faster and safer trips.”
Councils required to publish roadworks plans
According to the Department of Transport, the £8.3bn pot should be enough to resurface more than 5,000 miles of road, but there’s an added twist to the pothole repair saga for councils who from March 2024 will be required to publish their resurfacing plans online.
“To increase transparency and ensure the £8.3 billion leads to an increase in the number of roads being resurfaced, local authorities will be required to publish information on their websites on a regular basis explaining how they are spending the funding in their area,” the department says.
Head of policy at the RAC, Simon Williams, is among those welcoming the new scheme. “Drivers’ biggest bugbear of all is the poor condition of local roads, so the fact the Government has found a significant additional pot of revenue should give councils the certainty of funding they need to plan proper long-term road maintenance, something we have been calling for many years,” he said, adding that the funds should go a considerable way to bringing UK roads back to a “fit for purpose” state.
Rick Green, chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance – a trade body which has produced a series of hard-hitting reports on the state of the UK’s road infrastructure – also been quick to welcome the new funding. “This additional funding is good news for local authorities in England and is much needed to help them to tackle the backlog of repairs.
“We have long been calling for surety of funding over the long-term and the fact that the DfT has committed to this money being available over the next 11 years should allow highways teams to implement more efficient works to improve local road conditions and enhance the resilience of the network once they have details of their allocation,” he said.
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