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Local roads funding will only maintain the status quo

We welcome the fact that infrastructure has finally moved up the political agenda with recognition of its importance as a key growth driver for the UK economy.

Prioritising transport schemes such as the A14, A19 and A303 as well as other crucial upgrades, along with HS2, represents a more balanced, multimodal approach, and this can only benefit the wider commercial interests of UK plc.  

But while government undoubtedly faces tough spending decisions, I am concerned by the lack of shovel-ready projects.

Last year’s autumn statement marked a positive signal of intent with a promise to guarantee £40bn of private sector funding for new road schemes, but, in reality, progress has been slow and 2012 actually saw a decline in total expenditure on the UK road network of 41 per cent.  

Our declining roads remain a serious issue for the UK, particularly the local network. Recent severe winters and heavy rainfall have left around one in five local roads with a residual life of less than five years, and the cost of bringing them up to scratch is in excess of £10bn.

As welcome as the £6bn allocation for the local network is, it will only serve to maintain the status quo, rather than make real improvements. Furthermore, when it comes to our national roads, any new schemes will be undermined unless they are underpinned by well-maintained local infrastructure.

The old adage of prevention being better than the cure means that we need a proactive shift towards preventative road maintenance and longer term funding cycles to ensure that our £300bn local road asset is properly maintained and managed.

I hope we see real impetus in getting more projects off the ground to bring a much-needed boost to our economy.

Paul Fleetham is Tarmac national director, contracting


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