The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed the possibility of greater long-term certainty of road maintenance funding, but has issued a note of caution.
It says the new look public company Highways Agency proposed by the Government may be a further example of ‘all talk no action’ that acts as a distraction from the fundamental problem of a £8 billion shortfall in road maintenance funding.
In its command paper, ‘Action for Roads – a network for the 21st century’, the Government promises to resurface 80% of the strategic road network over the next seven years. Also proposed is setting up the Highways Agency as a publicly owned company to further remove it from the democratic process so freeing it from Whitehall red tape and removing the potential for future governments to cut the roads budget.
Crucially, the Government proposes that the new Highways Agency would be given a long-term, ring-fenced, funding settlement to progress the £28 billion spending plans for road construction and maintenance as outlined in June’s spending review.
“The provision of long-term funding certainty for a more independent Highways Agency is to be welcomed. This would lessen the short-term thinking that is such an obstacle to the provision of a well-maintained road network,” said Howard Robinson (pictured), RSTA chief executive. “However, many of the projects included in the paper have either been announced previously or will not start until 2015-16 at the earliest.
“It is important that the attractive headlines of the command paper do not detract from the fundamental issue of chronic historic under spending and lack of investment in our road network. Unfortunately this issue has not been addressed.”