Motorways, major carriageways and the larger A roads throughout England are maintained by National Highways, previously known as the Highways Agency and Highways England.
Transport Scotland and the Welsh Government respectively manage Scottish and Welsh highways, and Transport for London controls public roads in the capital.
Street and roadway maintenance is essential for safety, dealing with potholes, cracks, slippages, standing surface water and countless other deviations that can create a serious risk for drivers, pedestrians and vehicle passengers.
The complication is that the responsibility for maintaining and repairing a street depends on the location, the type of road, and whether the route is on private or public property.
When a street becomes seriously damaged or is not properly maintained, the condition of the surface can deteriorate rapidly as the damage worsens, particularly in very hot or very cold weather conditions.
National Highways is a government organisation sponsored by the Department for Transport, and is tasked with:
However, National Highways is only responsible for some roadways, and although it controls over 4,300 miles of British roads, that comprises just 2% of the streets in England. Other smaller public roads are the remit of the local council, which will depend on your location.
If there are urgent maintenance issues or other problems affecting a route near you, you can find your local council online by entering your postcode or the postcode of your business. In some regions, there are county and city or borough councils, so it is worth checking which services each council deals with to determine who to lodge a report or complaint with.
Local and national authorities are in charge of maintaining streets, roadways, motorways, and transport routes, including pavements, slip roads, roundabouts and other components of every street in use by the public.
Other streets may not fall under the scope of the national agency or local council, because they are situated on private land. There are many scenarios where maintenance is down to the landlord, owner or business that occupies the premise, or controls access.
Different scenarios where a council or government body will not maintain the street include airport runways, privately-owned industrial parks and commercial or industrial compounds.
While we might assume National Highways has a huge workforce of repair teams, the reality is that the government, and devolved bodies, normally enter into contracts for tender and may appoint varied civil engineers and contractors to complete essential maintenance.
There are multiple potential requirements, which could include repairs to pavements, street lights, curbs, the road surface, drainage, underground piping and cables, sewerage and water pipes, shrubbery and grass verges, barriers between lanes, bridges and overhead power lines, and numerous other fixtures and safety provisions.
Road surfacing contractors like Henry Williams complete routine repairs such as pothole restorations, complete resurfacing projects, periodic maintenance to the carriageway substrate and other repair work to manage surface hazards.
Damage to the surface of the street can cause real damage, particularly on high-speed roads and motorways where a vehicle hitting a pothole or crack could flip, veer into oncoming traffic, or collide with another car.
Maintenance is equally important on other parts of a street, where broken paving or uneven slabs could result in a serious fall, accident or injury.
Most roads and paving in the UK are made from tarmac, laid in layers, although older roads and pavements can also be constructed from concrete, artificial stone, brick, tile or flagstone, depending on the age of the street. Streets in conservation areas or regions of historical importance may also be made from cobblestones or timbers – although this is less common.
Any of these surfacing materials are liable to become worn or uneven over time without regular maintenance due to natural erosion, pressure from traffic, heavy rains, warm summers and icy conditions in the winter.
Keeping streets in good condition is also vital to ensure the emergency services can access any site, residential home or business premises where a crime, fire, serious accident or other crisis requires immediate attention.
One of the most important things for road users to do is report issues to the relevant body, be that a local authority, county council, city council, government body or private owner. Cracks and bumps may appear suddenly and worsen rapidly where freezing ice causes the deviation to expand.
Reporting the issue promptly means the appropriate organisation can instruct their contractor to carry out the maintenance required.
Whenever the surfacing on any street shows visible damage, it likely means far more extensive repairs are required under the top layer, so it is important to report the issue quickly to avoid a minor pothole becoming a severe safety risk.
Private roadway owners and landlords should take the same proactive approach to prevent major repair works and address minor issues straight away before the street becomes a hazard, and while the maintenance necessary is more straightforward to complete.
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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