UK road treatment and resurfacing falls to four-year low

The number of miles of road in England resurfaced or given life-extending treatment is at its lowest point in five years, RAC analysis of government data has revealed.

In 2021/2022 figures show just 1,123 miles of all types of road were resurfaced compared to 1,588 in 2017/2018 – this equates to a 29% reduction (465 miles).

For surface dressing – a technique that extends the life of roads and helps to prevent the need for full resurfacing – the figures were 3,551 miles in the last financial year compared to 5,345 five years ago, a 34% drop, or 1,794 miles.

Of the 153 roads authorities included in the latest data (2021/2022), three-in-10 (31%) did no resurfacing while half (51%) failed to carry out any surface dressing work.

The average length of road resurfaced for all authorities over the 12 months was just 13 miles while it was 42 miles for surface dressing.

Kent resurfaced the most miles of A road at 29 of its 502 miles (5.8%) while Lincolnshire did the most surface dressing at 50 miles of its 661 miles of A road (7.6%).

Looking at B, C and unclassified roads, Hertfordshire led the way in resurfacing by replacing 41 miles (1.5%) of its 2,759 network roads and Norfolk topped the table in surface dressing by treating 326 miles of its 5,627 roads (5.8%).

In percentage terms however, Southend-on-Sea resurfaced the greatest proportion of its 21-mile A-road network at 13% (3 miles) while Blackpool surfaced dressed 43% (11 miles) of its 26 miles of A-road.

For B, C and unclassified roads Tower Hamlets did the largest proportion of resurfacing at 14% (21 miles of its 152-mile network) and Reading surfaced dressed 15% (34 miles) of its 224-mile network.

The figures come as the RAC renews its call for the Government to change the way it funds local roads maintenance, ideally by ringfencing a proportion of money raised through fuel duty to give councils the certainty of having longer-term funding that ultimately enables them to get all the roads in their control into a better overall condition.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “These figures paint an incredibly stark picture of road maintenance in England and confirm our worst fears about the overall decline in the state of the country’s roads.

“While the Government has made more money available to authorities to fill potholes, it’s the general reduction in road improvement work that’s causing potholes to appear in the first place.

“It’s abundantly clear that councils in so many areas are barely scratching the surface when it comes to getting their roads up to a reasonable standard, and indeed the fact that such a large proportion haven’t done any surface dressing or resurfacing at all over a 12-month period really does say it all.

“Resurfacing is expensive but for some roads this will be the only course of action as they have fallen into such bad condition that nothing else can save them.

“Having said that, we urge authorities to make greater use of surface dressing and other preventative treatments which can be used successfully to improve surfaces and extend the lives of roads.”

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