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Friday, November 27, 2020

Covid-19: Lockdown 'opportunity' to fix England's roads

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Councils in England have a “unique opportunity” to fix potholes, road junctions and roadside drainage during lockdown, the AA has said.

It urged local authorities to ask drivers to move their vehicles to car parks near disused shops, pubs and restaurants while repairs take place.

Reduced traffic means work could happen safely and without causing congestion, AA president Edmund King said.

Councils said £10bn was needed to bring roads “up to scratch”.

The government said it had already committed £2.5bn for repairs “as part of the biggest nationwide programme ever announced”.

The lockdown in England is scheduled to last until 2 December. Pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops are closed, while people are being told not to travel unless it is necessary.

Mr King told the BBC: “Lower traffic levels during lockdown give highway authorities a unique opportunity to fill potholes, improve junctions and road drainage, safely and without causing congestion.

“If this can be done before the colder weather kicks in, it will help prevent further road degradation and all road users, whether on two wheels or four, will benefit.”

Main roads in England are maintained by Highways England, while councils are responsible for the upkeep of local, usually more minor roads.

Mr King said: “In residential areas where parked cars are an obstacle, the local authority should seek permission for drivers to park in car parks of the pubs, restaurants, shops or businesses that have been forced to close.”

Pothole

According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s survey of councils, the proportion of England’s roads in “poor condition” increased from 18% in 2017/18 to 21% in 2019/20.

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England, said it would take almost £10bn to bring local roads “up to scratch”.

He called on the government to provide the funding needed “to tackle the growing backlog of repairs” in its one-year spending review later this month.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We know that people want to see potholes repaired and roads improved, which is why we’ve committed £2.5bn for repairs as part of the biggest nationwide programme ever announced.

“The government has set out that construction can continue during the national restrictions, with employers following Covid-secure guidelines, meaning highways authorities are able to take advantage of the quieter roads to maintain and improve the network.”

During the previous lockdown, “quieter roads enabled more highway maintenance works to take place, leading to over 319 miles of resurfacing”, they added.

In April, recorded traffic in Great Britain fell to 1950s levels, before steadily rising as restrictions eased.

Experts predict road use will decline again this time around but, with schools and universities staying open, the effect is not expected to be as dramatic as before.

This post courtesy of bbc-politics

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