Photo: ALARM —

More than 40% of local roads in the South East of England could fail in the next 15 years as the amount needed to fix the backlog of repairs is £2.41 billion in the region.

This year’s ALARM (Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance) survey report, published today (19 March 2024), highlights the scale of the challenge that faces local authority highway teams who don’t have the funds to keep our roads in good shape.

Poor local road conditions impact our everyday lives, from the cost and inconvenience of damage to vehicles, to potentially causing accidents that can prove fatal for vulnerable road users such as cyclists. They are the number one complaint in local politicians’ post bags, yet highway teams don’t get enough funding to fix them.

“Local authorities in the South East have a bit more money to spend this year but the impact of rising costs due to inflation means they have actually been able to do less with it,” says Rick Green, Chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which commissions the ALARM survey.

“Couple this with the effects of the extreme weather we are increasingly facing, and the result is that the rate at which local roads are suffering is accelerating towards breaking point.”

There are now more than 12,800 miles of local roads in the South East – 44% of the network – that could need to practically be rebuilt within the next 15 years while surface conditions have also declined, despite the number of potholes filled over the last 12 months more than doubling, adding to the existing patchwork of previous repairs in the region.

Rick Green added:

“There’s still a mountain to climb when it comes to fixing our local roads and while it’s great that English local authorities should be getting more money from the Government through its Network North Funding, it’s clearly not going to be enough to halt the decline.

“The Transport Secretary was quoted as saying that the additional £8.3 billion over 11 years is enough to resurface 5,000 miles of local roads. This sounds like a lot, but not when you consider that there are already more than 3,000 miles identified as structurally poor, with less than 5 years’ life remaining, in the South East region alone.

“We need to get to the point where local authority highway engineers can plan and proactively carry out repairs and preventative works in the most timely and efficient way to the greatest benefit of all road users – rather than just having enough money to address immediate and urgent needs.”

The backlog describes the amount that would be needed – as a one-off catch-up cost – to bring the network up to condition that would allow it to be managed cost effectively and sustainably going forward as part of a proactive asset management approach.

This year’s ALARM survey is the 29th and reports local road funding and conditions based on information provided directly by those responsible for their maintenance.
The findings, which relate to the 2023/24 financial year, show that in the South East of England:

  • Local authorities would have needed an additional £145.6 million (an average of £8.6 million per
    authority) just to reach their own target road conditions.
  • It would cost £2.41 billion to tackle the backlog of carriageway repairs and bring the network up to a standard from which it can be maintained efficiently and cost-effectively going forward.
  • 56% of all local roads in the region are reported to be in good structural condition meaning the remaining 12,815 miles (44%) could continue to deteriorate to the point of needing to be rebuilt within the next 15 years without appropriate maintenance measures taking place.
  • £33.0 million has been spent filling in 456,688 potholes over the last 12 months.
  • Roads are only resurfaced on average once every 151 years.

Edmund King, AA President, said:

“Our breakdown data shows that 2023 was the worst year for potholes for five years. The latest ALARM report shows just how much is needed to simply get our roads up to standard.

“Arguably the road network is a local council’s biggest asset, but not enough planned investment and repairs are being made to make streets safer and smoother for drivers and those on two wheels.”

Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK, added:

“The facts and figures set out within ALARM 2024 tell a story which will resonate with road users nationwide. Many are familiar with the deteriorating condition of their local roads – they’ll have witnessed the recurring cycle of potholes and cracks appearing, being patched up, and re-appearing.

“The estimated £16.3 billion needed to fix local roads is obviously a huge amount of money. However, it’s important to remember that the Government initially planned to spend £27.4 billion on the strategic road network between 2020 and 2025. It’s time the Government heard the alarm bells and prioritised the maintenance of local roads.”

The full ALARM survey report is available to download from 00.01 hours on Tuesday 19 March by visiting

By Ed

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