1.            There are 1,688km of roads in Conwy, with total asset value of £1.2 billion, measured by gross replacement cost.  The highway network is the Council’s largest and most valuable asset.  Under the Highways Act 1980, Conwy as the Highway Authority has a statutory duty to maintain the road network in a safe condition.

 

2.            The condition of classified roads in Conwy is measured annually by automated SCANNER survey data.  The percentage of A, B and C roads in overall poor condition is shown in the table below:

 

Year

% roads in poor condition

A

B

C

2017/18

3.5

4.3

14.4

2016/17

3.1

4.3

15.7

2015/16

2.9

4.3

15.3

 

Unclassified roads comprise 60% of the network and are not measured by SCANNER systems, but qualitative data suggests that they are in inferior condition to C Roads, and deteriorating as capital spend is focussed on classified roads.   

 

3.            It is estimated that annual investment of £2m in reconstruction and preventative treatment schemes is required to maintain Conwy’s carriageways and footways in a steady state.  In addition, there is an estimated maintenance backlog in excess of £20m (not including bridges, retaining walls, drainage or street lighting).

 

4.            Since the end of Local Government Borrowing Initiative funding in 2014/15, Conwy’s annual capital investment in carriageway and footway refurbishment has been significantly less than the £2m required and is increasing the capital maintenance backlog each year.

 

Year

CCBC Capital Investment

£

2018/19

664,000

2017/18

664,000

2016/17

1,000,000

2015/16

450,000

 

5.            Annual investment levels should be viewed in the context of the Council’s total capital programme value of just £5.5m for 2018/19.  In addition to highway refurbishment, this funding has to cover areas such as Primary Schools Modernisation match funding, statutory adaptations to private sector housing, capital repairs and refurbishment to schools, repairs to bridges and retaining walls, street lighting column replacement, and flood and coastal defence scheme design and project match funding.

 

6.            Continued lack of investment in highway infrastructure will lead to further deterioration in condition, increased cost of reconstruction, repair and maintenance, an increase in successful third party claims against the Council and risk of failure to meet statutory duties. We are already seeing increased dissatisfaction from the public and elected members, particularly in relation to the condition of unclassified residential roads.  The recent severe winter will have a significant negative impact on road condition and will accelerate deterioration.

 

7.            It is recognised that trunk roads are a priority, however, there is a perception that funding for maintenance and improvement is disproportionate in comparison to funding for the county road network.

 

8.            The County Surveyors Society (CSS) Wales is currently undertaking a Highways Asset Management Planning (HAMP) Project on behalf of the 22 Welsh Local Authorities.  The project seeks to harmonise highways asset management planning across Wales, and develop risk-based inspection and maintenance regimes in compliance with the new UK Code of Practice ‘Well Managed Highway Infrastructure.’ Consideration should be given to analysing risk to trunk roads on the same basis, to determine if current levels of investment on trunk and county roads are proportionate to relative risk.

 

9.            Consideration should be given to allocating funding for capital improvements to County roads, road safety schemes and provision of Active Travel routes directly to Local Authorities (or consortia of Authorities), enabling more local input into decision making and removing unnecessary bureaucracy of grant application and scoring.  

 

10.         In summary, Conwy believes that a long term, asset management based approach is necessary to maintain and improve the condition of roads in Wales, the nation’s largest asset.  This should include risk-based decision making with local input and apply to county and trunk road networks alike, supported by an appropriate long term programme of funding that prevents further deterioration.  Failure to invest sufficiently in the short term will simply pass on higher costs to future generations.

 

 

Andrew Wilkinson

Head of Neighbourhood Services

27th April 2018