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Local roads in England and Wales are resurfaced on average once every 70 years and the repair backlog has now topped £12bn, according to a survey highlighting the scale of the problem faced by highways engineers.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) annual local authority road maintenance (ALARM) survey found councils would have needed an extra £1bn in 2021 just to reach their own target road conditions, before even thinking about tackling the backlog of repairs.

It also found almost one in five roads may need to be rebuilt in the next five years, equating to nearly 37,000 miles of the network.

And it found that the backlog of carriageway repairs has increased by 23% to £12.64bn, compounded by increased costs caused by rising inflation.

AIA chair Rick Green said: “Local authority highway teams have a legal responsibility to keep our roads safe, but do not have the funds to do so in a cost effective, proactive way.

“As a result, while they report some slight improvements in surface conditions, the structure of our roads continues to decline.

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“The country’s ambitions to encourage active travel, plus cutting waste and carbon emissions, will not be achieved with a short-term approach that can’t deliver a first-rate local road network.”

Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s head of roads policy said the survey was a “sobering picture of the dire condition of the local road network”.

He said: “Not only has there been a significant increase in the cost to fix the backlog of defects, but worryingly the report also shows that roads are only resurfaced once every 70 years on average, with maintenance mostly focusing on filling potholes which is often nothing more than a sticking plaster.”

The AA said that every year the debate around roads maintenance degenerated into a blame game between local authorities and the government and that both needed to get round the table and create a fully-funded plan.

Jack Cousens, AA head of roads policy, added: “Residents rightly complain that their roads are resurfaced once a lifetime at every 70 years. Despite talks of levelling up, road users would simply like the roads levelled out.”