Wales

Call for greater investment in Welsh roads

Pothole
Image caption New research shows badly maintained roads are costing the UK economy £4.1bn a year

Transport bodies in Wales have called for more investment in the road network despite cuts to council budgets.

The Road Haulage Association for Wales said deferring vital works would only lead to an increased repair bill in future years.

The plea comes as new research suggests badly maintained roads are costing the UK economy £4.1bn a year.

The Welsh Assembly Government says it has released another £2.75m for road repairs after two bad winters.

But it said it was up to local authorities to set the correct budget to deal with the maintenance and repair of local roads - something they must do under tight financial restraints after the recent spending review.

Mike Farmer, regional director of the Road Haulage Association for Wales and the south west, said it was not fair to ask the taxpayer to foot the bill and was down to prioritising budgets.

Maintenance backlog

He told BBC Radio Wales that road users last year paid £42bn in road-related taxes.

"All of that goes to the general exchequer and only a small proportion of that is reallocated to transport infrastructure.

"We are realistic - not all of that money is going to go back into the roads, but at the moment only £6bn from across the UK goes back in and we feel that should be increased.

"No, we wouldn't be prepared to pay more, because we are already paying our way."

His views are shared by Bob Daimond, an independent consultant for transport and highways who sits on the North Wales committee for the Institution of Civil Engineers.

He said: "We know there's a backlog of maintenance on local authority roads worth at least £200m which has been built up over some years.

"It is a problem, local authorities are suffering from cuts, they are also suffering from the problem of deciding which services are priority.

"But I would point out that highways is the only service provided by local authorities which affects everybody who lives in, works in and visits the area.

"The damage done last year is only a drop in the ocean - the Welsh Assembly Government refer to their £5m extra local road maintenance grant but a few years ago that was £15m.

"If you put it in context, the whole situation is getting worse and we should bear in mind that maintenance deferred is maintenance increased."

'Worsened'

New research by the Asphalt Industry Alliance shows 56% of the general public believe the condition of local roads has worsened in the last five years.

The survey of SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] and 2,028 members of the public suggested the poor condition of the roads was causing 55% of those businesses to lose an average of £13,600 each per year.

This year the assembly government announced an extra £2.75m for councils to repair Wales' weather-beaten roads.

The money was additional to the £5m Local Road Maintenance Grant already allocated for 2010/11.

Accident statistics for Wales in 2009 show the number of road accidents, injuries and deaths have all seen falls compared to the previous year.

A Welsh Assembly Government spokesman said: "The UK government's recent Spending Review means the assembly government's budget next year will be almost £900m less than this year and in 2014/15 our budget will be £1.8bn lower in real terms than it is this year.

"Calls for additional funds from us under such circumstances will prove difficult to meet.

"Regarding the safety of our roads, the latest statistics show the number of people either killed or injured on Welsh roads is the lowest since records began in 1968."

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