The announcement today (26 March 2018) of a government investment package of £100m to repair some of Britain’s most damaged roads has been met with cautious optimism by the UK’s largest association for the logistics industry. But the Freight Transport Association (FTA), which represents more than 17,000 businesses moving goods and services across the country, has questioned why the fund announced is insufficient to repair all of the country’s damaged roads, considering the amount of money which the sector contributes to the Treasury.
“Any funding which aims to improve the state of the nation’s roads is welcomed,” says Christopher Snelling, head of UK policy at FTA, “but after years of chronic underinvestment, road maintenance has lagged behind what is required to keep our highways in top condition. The recent spell of cold weather has exacerbated problems which have been ignored for years, and the neglect of the road network has left many roads in a dangerous state for all road users.
“Independent research* showed last year that HGVs pay enough tax alone to cover almost the whole of UK spending on road maintenance – three times more than the estimated cost of damage caused to infrastructure by their movement – so why is government eking out funding which is already in the national coffers, rather than investing in our roads?”
Between 2015 and 2016, central and devolved governments and local authorities spent around £4.7 billion on road maintenance. HGV taxes (vehicle excise duty, road user levy and fuel duty) raised in the same period £4.4 billion. The cost estimate for infrastructure damage imposed by HGVs totalled only £1.5bn. The total tax take from motor vehicles was £33.5 billion – more than seven times as high as the road maintenance budget.
“The funding announced today will repair two million of the worst potholes nationwide,” continues Snelling, “but this is really a drop in the ocean when you consider the parlous state of the country’s roads, which have been harmed by years of chronic under-investment. As a country, we rely on goods arriving quickly and efficiently but this is becoming increasingly impossible when a lack of clear infrastructure investment is hindering their movement.
“As an association, FTA is receiving increasing numbers of reports from its members of damage caused to vehicles by using the nation’s crumbling roads, and these costs will ultimately drive up prices for our manufacturing and retail sectors. At a time when the nation needs to be as competitive as possible, with Brexit looming, surely those responsible for keeping the country trading should be supported in their efforts by a fully functioning, well maintained, safe road network?”
“The fact that HGV taxes alone almost pay for the whole of UK road maintenance also shows that Britain still does not support the quality of the roads well enough. Whether it is potholes, road closures or long-running road works, we all suffer when the roads do not work as they should. Congestion is bad for the environment as well as the economy. The UK Government should provide for more spending by Highways England and our local authorities to ensure the roads are fit for purpose.”
Efficient logistics are vital to keep Britain trading, directly having an impact on more than seven million people employed in the making, selling and moving of goods. With Brexit, new technology and other disruptive forces driving change in the way goods move across borders and through the supply chain, logistics has never been more important to UK plc. A champion and challenger, FTA speaks to Government with one voice on behalf of the whole sector, with members from the road, rail, sea and air industries, as well as the buyers of freight services such as retailers and manufacturers.