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Road budgets 'misused'

Materials Blacktop industry criticises Scottish authorities over road repairs and calls for improved planning

SCOTTISH roads are disintegrating because of poorly distributed maintenance budgets, according to aggregate industry representatives.

They claim that almost 30 per cent of local authority maintenance funding in Scotland is spent on costly 'reactive' road repairs such as wearing course patching and reinstatement.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) feels this money could be put to better use in the funding of longer-term solutions such as full-depth repair.

'There seems to be an increased emphasis on reactive maintenance, which is not always appropriate.

'There has to be some reactive repair work but much more of the budget could be spent on full depth repairs, ' said an AIA spokesman.

The association criticised the way funding of maintenance budgets forced local authorities to plan repair programmes year on year.

'At the moment, funding defines the way maintenance is carried out.

'If authorities planned maintenance budgets over five years they could work in more full depth structural repairs, ' added the spokesman.

And he denied that poor workmanship or materials were to blame for the repair requirements, despite an increase in visual road surface defects of 104 per cent over the past 10 years.

'The increase is not down to material quality. Modern asphalt is more robust and hard-wearing than it has ever been.'

The AIA 2002 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey revealed that Scottish maintenance budgets are under-funded compared to their English and Welsh counterparts.

The report showed that Scottish authorities and contractors could expect to re-lay a stretch of road once every 120 years if current levels of funding from the Scottish Executive are maintained, but their English counterparts could afford to resurface every 78 years.

But a Scottish Executive spokesman denied allegations of underfunding.

'This year the Executive announced a £20 million grant to local authorities across Scotland to assist them in carrying out preparatory work to tackle the repair backlog to local roads and bridges.'