Road repairs: Councils to get £140m for weather damage

A man paddles his canoe down a flooded road in Somerset

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An additional £140m is to go to councils in England to repair roads damaged by the bad weather, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has said.

A fund for areas with the most severely damaged roads will get an extra £36.5m - taking the total available to £80m.

A further £103.5m will be shared between English councils for repairs.

Mr McLoughin said the money would make "a real difference". The Local Government Association said the cost of storm repairs would be more than £140m.

Analysis

Councils say a series of bad winters - some cold, some wet - has left the local road network facing a repair crisis.

Water from the recent flooding got into the fabric of many roads. But the cracks and potholes that have been exposed may be a symptom of a deeper problem - a lack of investment in maintenance over many years.

The Local Government Association have welcomed the new money, but say "consistent funding will be needed over a number of years" for the road network to recover.

Downing Street said the extra money brought the total government investment in road maintenance to more than £1bn in 2013/14.

The investment comes after the the wettest winter on record in parts of the UK caused widespread devastation to sections of the road and rail network.

The Department for Transport has said the additional money will be distributed to the majority of councils in England by the end of the week.

Work should be completed before the summer holidays, it said.

Councils will be required to publish information on their websites by the end of August showing where this money has been spent.

"This extra money will help make a real difference to the millions of road users and local residents who rely on local roads, giving them safer and smoother journeys," Mr McLoughlin said.

A flooded road close to the village of East Lyng, in Somerset

Prime Minister David Cameron said the government could afford to pay for the road repairs because of savings already made.

"It's because of the difficult decisions we have made on public spending that we can afford to repair roads damaged by the severe weather as part of our long-term economic plan to secure Britain's future and help hardworking people," he said.

Local Government Association environment and housing board chairman Mike Jones said councils had already expressed "serious concerns" about the impact of this winter's extreme weather. He said the investment was "good news for residents".

However, he said: "We do not yet know what the full bill for the cost of this winter's devastating floods will be, but we expect it to be more than £140m."

'Relentless rain'

He said councils were already facing a £10.5bn shortfall to repair damaged roads, saying the problem had been "exacerbated by adverse weather".

Mr Jones called for "consistent funding over a number of years" to pay for resurfacing projects to allow the road network to recover.

AA president Edmund King said "relentless rain" had "taken its toll on many roads".

He said: "The funding is welcome but we will still be playing catch-up once this money runs out."

Institute of Highway Engineers president Richard Hayes urged councils to spend the additional funding on repairs that would stand the test of time - rather than on simply filling in potholes.

"That money is great, but if it's not used effectively to produce a longer-term repair then it's really just throwing money at the hole and not doing a great deal with it.

"We do need to see a much longer-term investment - and we're talking now of ten to fifteen years of prolonged investment - to make sure that the structure that we're providing is robust and will withstand the weather and will withstand the effects of all the other sort of traffic conditions that we will have to face."

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