Roadway repairs vary considerably, from simple surface repairs to complete resurfacing projects, where the stability and structure of the carriageway require replacement or a more extensive overhaul. The appropriate road repair technique and responsibility for the costs of repair will depend on the nature of the roadway, who bears oversight of the route, and where it is situated.
There are three general categories of road repairs known as emergency, reactive and preventative maintenance. The correct approach will depend on the severity of the damage, the type of surfacing in place, and the age of the carriageway.
Henry Williams provides a full suite of road repair services, from emergency repairs due to safety-critical deviations to advisory surfaces, to enable clients and local authority bodies to select the most cost-effective preventative maintenance strategies.
The party liable for the repair of a roadway depends on the type of route. UK roads comprise motorways, major A roads, smaller B routes, and urban or residential streets alongside unclassified roads.
Primary routes with high traffic levels are normally managed by National Highways, a government body responsible for the relatively small proportion of major, heavy-usage highways such as motorways and larger A roads.
Authorities have a legal duty of care to maintain and repair roadways, according to the Highways Act 1980. Still, the English body is only responsible for specific, named carriageways, and a larger percentage are devolved to local authorities or their appointed repair contractors.
Similar motorways and A roads in Scotland and Wales are managed by alternative bodies such as Transport Scotland.
Any non-primary road or highway, such as a B road, lane, inner-city route, residential carriageway or public street, is the responsibility of the relevant borough, district, town or city council, and it may be necessary to investigate which local authority deals with highway repairs if you wish to report an issue.
British roads can become badly deteriorated following periods of heavy rain, freezing conditions and hot temperatures. Unfortunately, around 18% of the road network is considered to be in poor condition – whereas preventative maintenance could prevent unsafe driving surfaces from developing.
Funding is also variable, and although the Central Government is responsible for covering the costs of keeping roads maintained and suitably renewed, financing allocations are also directed through the Department for Transport.
Other organisations may be involved, including the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, and local governments and highways management offices, which are usually funded through local council revenues.
The Department for Transport may not directly contract repair teams but is tasked with disseminating policies to local authorities, alongside issuing funding and guidance to support councils in keeping road networks running efficiently and safely.
It also invests in the operation and maintenance of the major A road and motorway networks through National Highways, previously known as the Highways Agency and Highways England.
Potholes are a particular issue on most UK roads and cause around £2.4 million of damage to vehicles every 12 months. However, unpredictable and changing weather conditions can mean that quick patches fail almost as quickly as they are carried out.
Short-term solutions are unsuitable to stand up to the pressure of continuous exposure to traffic. While local councils may perceive a fast patch as a cost-effective solution, the long-term liability where repairs are not fit for purpose may prove detrimental.
Sustained cold and wet weather degrades roadway surfaces, where cracks and bumps appear. When water penetrates the surface and freezes, the ice forces the surface to split further apart, sometimes creating highly dangerous potholes that can cause accidents.
Patching holes and other gaps, rather than addressing the stability of the underlying defects in the road structure, means the gap fills with water during the next rainy conditions and opens again.
Where repairs are ineffective or insufficient, vehicle owners and businesses with fleets that become damaged may be entitled to claim compensation, with the details of the claim process published through the government Motorways and Major Roads portal.
If a road or entranceway is on private property, it is likely the responsibility of the owner or landlord to cover the cost of repairs.
Local authority highway planners may not cover unadopted or unclassified roads, and it is doubtful that councils will be prepared to finance repairs outside their remit.
National Highways clarifies that whoever owns the frontage bears the cost of repairs or liability for damage caused. The frontage is the area of a property defined in the aforementioned Highways Act as adjoining, which means any property, commercial site or business premise adjacent to the roadway may be deemed responsible for road repair costs.
Roads that are not properly maintained and develop serious deviations can cause heightened risks of accidents and collisions, so it is essential that responsible parties organise the maintenance work necessary to prevent danger.
Local authorities and councils can issue formal notices to instruct responsible owners to carry out emergency repairs to roads, even those that are private or unadopted, where it is evident that the condition of the surface presents a hazard to traffic.
About our guides: We are experts in our field but sometimes it is just as important to explain to the public what we do and why. So with this in mind and because of the importance of the communities we work in, we have put together a series of blog posts explaining what we do for the public.
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