It would cost £12.64bn to get through the backlog of carriageway repairs in England and Wales and the average time for maintenance backlogs to be cleared would be nine years. These are the headline figures from the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA’s) Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, which was published on 22 March 2022.
Behind those headline figures, there were other interesting findings in the survey. One was the varying disparity between the cost of planned pothole repair and reactive pothole repair. In England (excluding London), the costs were £45.83 per pothole for a planned repair and £71.40 for a reactive one, a 56% difference. In London, the figures were £54.68 and £87.23, a 59% difference. But in Wales, they were £45.00 and £104.65, a whopping 133% difference.
The picture of changing costs over the past two years also shows significant variation. In England, planned pothole repair rose by just 4% between the 2020 and 2022 reports, in London by 16% and in Wales by 39%.
There are many contributory factors that could be behind these differences. One issue highlighted in the report is that some authorities are forced to pay for fast fixes to make their roads safe, rather than being able to take a more strategic, longer-term view. This fire-fighting approach leads to a vicious cycle of short-term and costly repairs – which also increase carbon emissions.
AIA chair Rick Green comments in the foreword to the report: “Revenue-poor engineers told us that they often have to opt for reactive maintenance treatments that can be completed within certain timescales, regardless of the whole-life implications for carbon emissions and their authorities’ net zero pledges, which the majority have set for 2030 – just eight years away.”
It is also worth looking backwards to see how pothole repair costs have changed over the past decade. The 2012 ALARM study only provided an average cost for all pothole repairs – rather than planned and reactive – which back then was £55 in England (excluding London), £55 in London and £35 in Wales. The overall average today is £63.12.
Back in 2012, the ALARM survey also looked at the differences between the average costs of fixing potholes in urban and rural roads. They were the same for both, £54. The 2022 survey does not make such a distinction, although it would be interesting to understand the differences now, as rural authorities have said that funding is being redirected to urban councils under the levelling up agenda, leaving their roads to disintegrate, and ultimately higher costs.
What the latest ALARM survey does underline is that the cost of repairing potholes is as varied as the road networks that each authority is responsible for. However, it would be useful to be able to dig down into those figures and find out why certain local authorities are managing to fill potholes at a lower cost than peers with similar networks.
We’d like to think that Thermal Road Repairs technology might be responsible for some of the cost outliers, even lowering some of those averages. It is a lower cost process by design, it can be used for planned or reactive repairs, it uses heat to bond old and new material to create a long-lasting repair. And the real bonus is that it is ultra-low carbon too.
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. We invest significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve our existing ones.
High output. Low emission. Permanent solution.