Roads roundup

Opposition to the Stonehenge Tunnel is building. On World Heritage Day this Saturday (18 April), the Stonehenge Alliance is calling on political leaders to pledge their support for safeguarding the Stonehenge World Heritage Site (WHS). Current proposals to widen the A303 with a short tunnel threaten the future of this landscape, the alliance says. With only a few weeks before the General Election, the Alliance is asking politicians for a commitment to protecting the whole of the WHS, in line with the UK’s obligation under the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. There are growing petitions internationally and in the UK against the project. 

Industry has responded to Labour’s pledge to spend an additional £300M on potholes on top of the £400M already allocated by the Coalition. Chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association Alasdair Reisner said: "Councils estimate that £12 billion worth of repairs are needed in England alone to bring the network up to scratch. This growing backlog of work must trigger an urgent rethink of the way repairs are funded. A one-off programme of intensive improvements to local roads would significantly reduce the long-term cost of maintaining the network. But there is a need for a new funding model to tackle highways maintenance once and for all. To ensure there is enough money for highways maintenance alongside other major infrastructure projects, we have proposed wider use of prudential borrowing, while consideration should also be given to private finance models and the targeted use of local authority reserves.”

The Asphalt Industry Alliance is calling on whoever makes up the next government to recognise the importance of making a commitment to local road funding a priority. “It is disappointing to see that there is little – if any – reference to roads in the election manifestos of the main political parties,” said AIA chairman Alan MacKenzie. “Under current funding commitments every mile of our motorways and trunk roads will receive £1.4 million funding over the next six years while our local roads will see just £31,000 per mile. This is only enough for local authorities to keep pace with repairs but will do nothing to tackle the backlog or prevent continuing deterioration. It is critical that any incoming government recognises the importance of the funding commitments that are already in place, and the need to reach a position where our roads are maintained properly.”

Highways England is to hold briefing events on the new road maintenance regime to be trialled in the East Midlands as an alternative to the Asset Support Contract regime allowing the agency to adopt a more hands-on client role and smaller works packages. The events will be held on the 2nd and 3rd of June and 13 July.