Memorandum by the Refined Bitumen Association
Evidence from the Refined Bitumen Association
(RBA) on maintenance of motorways, trunk roads and local authority
principal roads for the Transport Sub-committee of the House of
Commons Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee.
The Current State of Repair of Motorways and Trunk
Roads and of Local Authority Principal Roads
1. For the past five years the RBA has conducted
the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey. Much
of the statistical information presented in this evidence is taken
form the most recent survey's results (April 2000). The survey
gathers statistical information and seeks the views of those responsible
for road maintenance in all local authorities in England, Scotland
and Wales. A summary of the findings of the RBA's 2000 Annual
Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey is attached. The
findings of this year's survey will be available from 4 April
2. Evidence gathered by the RBA in relation
to local authority principal roads highlights the continued decline
in the state of repair of these roads. Responding to the Association's
2000 Survey, 42 per cent of all local authorities stated that
the frequency of road surfacing on principal roads in their area
has decreased due to under-funding of road maintenance programmes.
3. Overall, the average frequency of road
surfacing on all types of local authority roads is now at a level
of once in every 78 years as opposed to the recommended frequency
of once every 10 to 20 years depending on the road type. The need
for structural maintenance work on all types of local authority
roads has increased by 75 per cent over the last 10 years and
the number of visual defects (for example, cracking, deterioration,
patching and potholes) has increased by 62 per cent over the same
period. Thirty-six per cent of local authority road maintenance
budgets are spent on costly reactive maintenance rather than more
efficient, planned maintenance programmes.
4. Regular and planned maintenance on principal
and all roads is essential to maintain safety standards. Of concern
to the RBA is the fact that 74 per cent of local authorities believe
there is a threat to road users' safety due to road maintenance
under funding. In addition, the number of claims by road users
against local authorities for damage to vehicles or road traffic
accidents due to road structural conditions has increased by 34
per cent over the past 10 years with each local authority, or
its insurer, paying £280,000 per year in such claims. Each
authority utilises 38 days of staff time per month processing
Steps taken by the Government, Highways Agency
and Local Authorities to Ensure that Roads are Kept in Good Repair
5. The RBA welcomes the pledges of extra
funding from the Government for road maintenance. However, it
harbours serious concern as to whether this extra funding will
be used in the most efficient manner and, indeed, whether in certain
circumstances it will be used for the purposes for which it is
intended. The Association believes strongly that safeguards should
be put in place to ensure road maintenance funds made available
to local authorities by central Government are used precisely
for that purpose.
6. The RBA believes that the Highways Agency
is successful in its role in maintaining the national road network
and is a worthy custodian of that network. The fact that its responsibility
is purely for roads means that it is able to concentrate efforts,
funds and expertise in that area without dilution. This is to
the benefit of the road user, the Government and the road construction
and maintenance industry. The Agency's focused role means that
it can closely meet the needs and expectations of road users.
Without denigrating the good management and expertise of the Highways
Agency, the RBA believes that the overriding reason for the Agency's
success lies in the fact that, unlike local authorities, its sole
responsibility is for roads and its budget is for use solely on
7. Local authority highways' departments
are responsible for 95 per cent of all of Britain's roads. Local
authority highways' departments state that they require three
times their current budgets to maintain roads adequately. They
report a shortfall in road structural maintenance budgets of £1
billion per annum.
8. Local authority highways' departments
do not receive the necessary funds often as a result of local
political decisions. Year-on-year, funds initially destined for
spending on road maintenance have been allocated to other local
authority activities. This practice has resulted in a cumulative
decline in the standard of local authority roads.
What further steps should be taken to bring roads
in this country up to the best possible standard?
9. On a national level, to ensure adequate
funds are available to maintain roads the RBA believes that Government
tax on vehicle fuel should be separated into two elements, general
tax and a "road charge". All revenue raised from the
"road charge" and from the road fund licence should
go directly to roads. The general tax element on fuel should continue
to be set by the Chancellor for general expenditure.
10. The RBA believes that the Government
should establish a "Roads' Regulator" who would ensure
the fair distribution of road funds between national and local
services, and regulate the "road charge". This should
be implemented in line with the Government's policies on integrated
transport so that the needs of all road users can be considered
when maintenance is planned and carried out.
11. The RBA believes that, to ensure that
adequate funds are safeguarded to maintain roads to a minimum
safety and environmental standard, road maintenance funds provided
by central Government to local authorities must be ring-fenced
for use for that purpose only. Local authority highway engineers
who have the expertise and knowledge to maintain roads properly,
could then implement planned road maintenance programmes. This
would ensure that best value for money is realised and that road-users
would benefit from safer roads and from less traffic congestion
associated with road reconstruction and maintenance.
12. The actions of utility companies, particularly
on principal roads in urban areas, have considerable negative
impact on the standard of roads. The RBA believes that greater
resources should be applied to co-ordinate the activities of utilities
to minimise the initial damage to roads. The RBA is concerned
also about the quality of reinstatement of roads by utility companies.
Frequently, poor standards of reinstatements lead to more general
maintenance problems and necessitate additional expenditure by
the road authority.
13. The RBA welcomes the increased adoption
of long-term maintenance contracts by road authorities. Such contracts
allow for greater efficiency and more scope for effective planning.
They also mean better value for money. Long-term contracts also
present the opportunity for maintenance organisations, which then
have the ability to control and plan maintenance, to use new and
innovative road maintenance and construction materials to the
benefit of all road users.
14. The asphalt industry has invested considerable
resources in developing maintenance materials which allow roads
to be repaired and maintained rapidly, often overnight. These
materials help to minimise the financial and environmental impact
of congestion caused by road maintenance. Their use is increasing
and is of particular benefit on highly trafficked and strategic
roads such as motorways, trunk roads and principal roads, ensuring
they operate at optimum capacity. As dependency on the road network
continues to rise, rapid maintenance techniques take higher priority.
However, rapid and overnight maintenance come at a cost. Restricted
working hours require more intensive work and, hence increase
labour costs. These increased costs must be considered when maintenance
budgets are set.
15. The RBA believes that the asphalt industry's
ability and drive to develop new materials has proved extremely
advantageous in the past and should be encouraged in the future.
To ensure maximum general public, road-user and cost benefits
are realised, all opportunities should be investigated when maintenance
is planned. These should include the use of noise-reducing asphalt
road surfaces where possible, the use of spray-reducing surfaces
and the use of durable coloured asphalts to assist in allocating
road space for specific road users. Considering all these elements
in maintenance planning will assist in achieving best value for
money and minimum road-user disruption.
Refined Bitumen Association
19 January 2001
Founded in 1968 the Refined Bitumen Association
(RBA) is the trade association of the five largest bitumen suppliers
who between them produce nearly all of the UK's bitumen. Over
85 per cent of this is used in the construction and maintenance
of bituminous, or asphalt, roads which account for over 95 per
cent of all UK roads.
The RBA is a consultative body formed to promote
the technical benefits of bitumen to the construction industry
and to fund research into bituminous products. The Association
publishes technical bulletins and provides technical advice to
the construction industry. It also works with contractors and
authorities on issues of recycling bituminous materials. In conjunction
with the Quarry Products Association, the RBA publishes Asphalt
In addition, the RBA is involved in the development
of industry policy on quality assurance and standards relating
to issues such as safety, storage, and the handling of bitumen.
Participation in the development of UK and European specifications
and test methods is also one of the Association's major activities.
In addition, the Association produces and publishes the Annual
Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey, the authoritative,
annual survey on the condition of and funding of local authority
controlled roads (95 per cent of the UK road network).
The Association's Technical Director is Dr Tony
Harrison, and its Chairman is Julian Peake of Totalfina Bitumen.
Members of the RBA are: BP Bitumen; Esso Petroleum;
Totalfina Bitumen; Nynas UK; and Shell Bitumen.