Page last updated at 07:27 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 08:27 UK

'Millions of holes' dug in roads

A pothole in a road
Potholes are uncomfortable to drive over and can damage vehicles

Utilities companies dug up local roads in England and Wales 2.5 million times last year, according to a new report.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) claimed there was an 11-year backlog of road-resurfacing work.

The report into councils' road maintenance raised concerns that digging trenches in a road reduces its life-span by a third.

The Department for Transport said it wanted "regular, well-managed maintenance" of roads by councils.

The AIA also suggested there was a 1bn shortfall in council maintenance budgets, with some roads facing a 65-year wait for resurfacing.

Local authorities estimated they were receiving only half the budget they needed to keep roads in a reasonable condition.

Anyone who's dug a hole will realise that what comes out of it never goes back in
David Weeks, Asphalt Industry Alliance

This is the first time councils have revealed the huge number of holes utilities companies dig up in the roads.

The survey warned scars left by deep trenches for pipes or cables cut through several layers can make it more difficult to maintain roads.

In an attempt to reduce disruption and damage, the government has given councils new powers to issue permits for road works and fine companies which take too long to complete them.

David Weeks, the director of AIA, said there was "no joined up thinking" when it came to trenches being dug.

"Anyone who's dug a hole will realise that what comes out of it never goes back in, and that's the problem with these trenches.

"They dig them up but they can't compact the surface properly, and eventually that patch that they've done will give way, and it will lead to a pothole.

"The other problem is just the amount of trenches that are being dug with no joined up thinking."

Increased investment

Sheila Rainger, acting director of the RAC Foundation, said councils often have to "patch and mend" roads.

"The Traffic Management Act increases the powers of local authorities in England and Wales to set binding start and finish dates, order resurfacing work, and fine those companies who abuse the system.

"We urge all local authorities to exercise these powers as strongly as possible, whether through the new fixed penalty schemes or through court action."

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Since 2002 the government has more than trebled funding to local authorities for investing in their roads.

"We recently announced a three-year settlement which will mean funding of 809m in 2010/11, up from 265m in 2000/01, in addition to funding also provided for routine maintenance.

"We want local authorities to implement a system of regular, well-managed maintenance - not to leave things until they deteriorate to the point that repairs become urgent and more costly."

Figures reveal pothole pay-outs
27 Mar 08 |  Scotland
Hundreds benefit in pothole payouts
17 Jan 08 |  Northern Ireland
People dig deep to repair street
15 Oct 07 |  Shropshire

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