Whatever their political persuasion, there can be few local authority leaders who would argue with the new Prime Minister’s warning that there is a ‘profound economic challenge’ ahead. With inflation at a 40-year high and a public spending ‘black hole’ of £40bn, there are undoubtedly difficult decisions and compromises ahead.
Even before the events of recent weeks, the geopolitical situation was playing havoc with construction costs. Back in June this year, the County Councils Network which represents 40 of England’s largest councils reported that there had been a 92% rise in costs in the three months since they had set their budgets. Projects such as new roads, upgrades to schools and pothole filling were all at risk of being cancelled, they warned.
Four months on, prices of materials and fuel remain high. Figures from the Office of National Statistics suggest that the price of bituminous mixes has risen by 20% over the past 12 months; anecdotal evidence suggests it could be as high as 80% for some applications. Diesel costs are around 13% higher than they were this time last year. These rises are putting huge pressure on already stretched budgets.
So here is our proposition: why not follow the lead of councils such as the London Borough of Richmond, Manchester City and Bath and North East Somerset and try a new way of fixing potholes, defects and failed reinstatements that cuts costs – and carbon?
TRR’s system reduces vehicle movements to just one; no lorries to take away waste material or bring in new material. That is a lot of diesel saved. And, since it reheats and reuses damaged material, adding just 10% of the virgin asphalt that a traditional repair would require, material costs are much lower.
Clearly cost savings will vary, but it isn’t hyperbole to say that the unit cost of fixing a pothole could be halved by switching from traditional methods to the TRR one. With the rising costs of materials, fuel and labour, savings could perhaps be even higher for some authorities. And bear in mind that these comparisons don’t take into account the fact that the TRR technology was designed specifically to ensure that repairs lasted longer; because the old and new material is mixed together when warm and pliable, and then compacted, there is no joint or weak point to fail again. So, there will be whole-life savings too.
And then there’s the carbon agenda. Historically, sustainability issues have faded into the background in the face of austerity. But at TRR, we have never thought that cutting carbon should mean adding cost. Low carbon solutions should be good engineering solutions that reduce our use of virgin materials – and hence reduce cost (as well as carbon).
It is also important to reduce carbon emissions in absolute terms, for example by deploying renewable energy and lower carbon fuels. Be wary of ‘net zero’ solutions that rely on offsetting significant amounts of carbon – because the cost of carbon fluctuates too. And guess what: the cost per tonne of carbon is higher now than it was a year ago too.
Cutting carbon at any cost will never be a practical approach for a public sector organisation. Technology that cuts both carbon and cost? Now, that has to make sense.
Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. It invests significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve existing ones.
Thermal Road Repairs: Decarbonising the asphalt repair industry.
High output. Zero emission. Zero waste. Permanent solution.