To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what incentives his Department provides to encourage the private sector to create innovative new methods of repairing and maintaining road surfaces.
13 September 2021
Local highway authorities, including Herefordshire County Council, have a duty under Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980 to maintain the highways network in their area. Local highways teams, including private contractors, are accountable to the local authority they are working for.
Whilst the Government does not intervene in highway maintenance decisions, to support local highway maintenance, the Department paid £1.346 billion in 2018/19, £926 million in 2019/20, and £1.526 billion in 2020/21 through formula allocated funding, including the Pothole Fund. This funding was provided to all eligible local highway authorities in England, outside London. The Department has not been approached by any authority with regards to DfT assuming responsibility over parts of their respective local road networks.
The Department endorses 'Well-managed highway infrastructure: A Code of Practice’ by the UK Roads Liaison Group. This guidance takes an integrated, risk-based approach to managing highway infrastructure. The Department also worked with the Association of Directors, for Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport to publish ‘Potholes: a repair guide’ which offers practical advice to highway authorities.
Well-planned maintenance to prevent potholes and other defects forming on the roads is vital; Councils that do this effectively get better value for every pound spent. The Department has no current plans to reward the local authority that repairs the most potholes as this could discourage a more effective preventative approach, linked to highway asset management best practice.
Highway maintenance activities cover a wide range of granular works, and there is no specific requirement for Councils such as Herefordshire to demonstrate how they spend their share of funding, including the Pothole Action Fund. The Department also has made no estimate of the amount Herefordshire Council paid out for claims for potholes in 2018, 2019, and 2020. The matter of insurance and dealing with any compensation claims due to possible defects, including potholes, on the highway network is entirely a matter for Herefordshire Council as the relevant highway authority, who have delegated statutory responsibility for managing and maintaining their roads as set out in the Highways Act 1980 (as amended).
Whilst the Department for Transport encourages local highway authorities to be innovative it is not for Government to intervene or endorse any specific commercial product as it is entirely their decision as to which products to use. In 2019 DfT provided £22.9 million for the ADEPT Live Labs programme, to help develop innovative approaches across communications, materials, energy solutions, and mobility on the local highway network.