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Government in a Hole Over Road Repairs Say Haulage and Freight Transport Interests

New Funding Welcomed – But We Are Entitled to More Says Transport Lobby UK – When the government announced today[1] that it was to make a further GBP100 million available to councils across the UK to repair potholes and other damage caused by recent extreme weather conditions, it probably thought that it would gain some credibility from the logistics lobby. One suspects the reaction has hardly been as warm as the men in the Ministry would have hoped for. Whilst both the respective industry Associations of Road Haulage (RHA[2]) and Freight Transport (FTA[3]) have welcomed the news, they certainly did so with some reservations.

The further GBP100 million is on top of the GBP75 million in government funding already given to councils from the Pothole Action Fund[4] this year, as well as the additional GBP46 million boost for highways authorities announced just before Christmas.

Around 7 million potholes in total should be filled due to this money according to the announcement made in the 2016 Budget. Potholes can be reported on the government’s dedicated link[5]. RHA chief executive Richard Burnett commented:

“This news is good for all road users but in particular for road transport operators. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling says that people rely on good roads to get to work and to see friends or family. For hauliers, the road network, including the motorway system, is their workplace.

However, harsh winter conditions have seen many roads fall into such a state of disrepair that many are no longer fit for purpose. “We understand that the money will help repair almost 2 million potholes. The cost to road hauliers for repairs to damaged suspension systems and increased tyre wear for example, is already considerable.

Local councils must acknowledge that the problem extends well beyond the main roads. Many distribution centres are based on large industrial estates for which the access roads are not part of the strategic road network. The need for these side roads to be maintained is equally important in maintaining the viability of local businesses and the regional economy.”

Between 2015 and 2016, central and devolved governments and local authorities spent around GBP4.7 billion on road maintenance. HGV taxes (vehicle excise duty, road user levy and fuel duty) raised in the same period GBP4.4 billion. The cost estimate for infrastructure damage imposed by HGVs totalled only GBP1.5bn.

The total tax take from motor vehicles was GBP33.5 billion, more than seven times as high as the road maintenance budget. ‘Cautious optimism’ was the phrased used by the FTA upon hearing of the extra funding, going on to point out the value of the industry to the Treasury as it has questioned why the fund announced is insufficient to repair all of the country’s damaged roads. Christopher Snelling, head of UK policy at the FTA, elaborated thus:

“Any funding which aims to improve the state of the nation’s roads is welcomed, but after years of chronic underinvestment, road maintenance has lagged behind what is required to keep our highways in top condition. The recent spell of cold weather has exacerbated problems which have been ignored for years, and the neglect of the road network has left many roads in a dangerous state for all road users. “Independent research showed last year that HGVs pay enough tax alone to cover almost the whole of UK spending on road maintenance, three times more than the estimated cost of damage caused to infrastructure by their movement, so why is government eking out funding which is already in the national coffers, rather than investing in our roads?”

“The funding announced today will repair two million of the worst potholes nationwide but this is really a drop in the ocean when you consider the parlous state of the country’s roads, which have been harmed by years of chronic under investment. As a country, we rely on goods arriving quickly and efficiently but this is becoming increasingly impossible when a lack of clear infrastructure investment is hindering their movement. “As an association, FTA is receiving increasing numbers of reports from its members of damage caused to vehicles by using the nation’s crumbling roads, and these costs will ultimately drive up prices for our manufacturing and retail sectors.

At a time when the nation needs to be as competitive as possible, with Brexit looming, surely those responsible for keeping the country trading should be supported in their efforts by a fully functioning, well maintained, safe road network? “The fact that HGV taxes alone almost pay for the whole of UK road maintenance also shows that Britain still does not support the quality of the roads well enough. Whether it is potholes, road closures or long-running road works, we all suffer when the roads do not work as they should.

Congestion is bad for the environment as well as the economy.

The UK Government should provide for more spending by Highways England and our local authorities to ensure the roads are fit for purpose.”

Government in a Hole Over Road Repairs Say Haulage and Freight Transport InterestsGovernment in a Hole Over Road Repairs Say Haulage and Freight Transport Interests

References

  1. ^ announced today (www.gov.uk)
  2. ^ RHA (www.rha.uk.net)
  3. ^ FTA (www.fta.co.uk)
  4. ^ Pothole Action Fund (www.gov.uk)
  5. ^ dedicated link (www.gov.uk)



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