DFT needs to improve road maintenance standards, says committee

The Department for Transport (DfT) needs to do more to improve road maintenance standards in the UK.

Road maintenance standards have been heavily criticised by the Public Accounts Committee.

This is according to a review carried out by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which revealed public satisfaction with the road network is currently at its lowest level.

Only 30 per cent of the public are happy with the condition of the UK's roads and the speed and quality of repairs, which is the lowest figure reported since records began in 2008. The greatest problems were found to be in London and the south-east.

PAC chair Margaret Hodge was highly critical of the DfT's approach to road maintenance. "The department's unpredictable and fluctuating budgets for road maintenance over decades have put value for money at Security," she stated.

"The department must see that prevention is better than cure. It costs £52 to fill in a pothole, or £70 in London, yet it affects over £30 million to pay and process compensation claims from road users for damages arising from poor road conditions," Ms Hodge added.

The findings of the PAC's review will be of great interest to fleet operators across the country, as the quality of the road network naturally has a huge bearing on their work.

Ms Hodge criticised the fact road maintenance budgets were cut by £1.2 billion in 2010, but since then an extra £1.1 billion has been spent "intermittently" for a variety of reasons such as flooding and repairing winter damage.

She said that while the PAC understands unpredictable winter weather can cause problems, spending on road maintenance is inefficient because it tends to be reactive and unplanned. Ms Hodge claimed local authorities should focus on anticipating and predicting problems in order to prevent them from occurring.

The PAC made a number of other recommendations for how the DfT can improve. These include holding the new Highways Agency to account for delivering value for money, provide funding in a way that encourages efficiency and collaboration, and making sure local authorities develop a good understanding of their road networks.

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