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Welsh road repair backlog tops £600m a new survey reports

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The backlog of carriageway repairs to fix local roads in Wales is now £640 million, compounded by increased costs caused by rising inflation, reports this year’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey.

The ALARM survey, published today (March 22, 2022) by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), highlights the scale of the worsening issue faced by highway engineers who have to make difficult choices about keeping local roads open and safe versus improving overall conditions.

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Despite an increase in average highway maintenance budgets (up 3% on 2020/21) and more of that being invested in the carriageway itself, the reported backlog of carriageway repairs has increased slightly to the equivalent of £640 million – or more than £32,000 for every mile of local road.

Rick Green, AIA Chair, 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 across the whole network.

“Earlier this month the Welsh Government confirmed that it has ringfenced £500 million for major road upgrades in the strategic road network but has made no such commitment to local roads, which make up 95% of the network in Wales.”

This year marks the 27th successive ALARM survey, which reports local roads funding and conditions based on information provided directly by those responsible for its maintenance.

The findings of ALARM 2022, which relate to the 2021/22 financial year, show that in Wales authorities would have needed an additional £58.4 million last year just to reach their own target road conditions, before even thinking about tackling the backlog of repairs.

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The report also reveals that 11% of the local network – 2,200 miles – is in poor structural condition and could need to be rebuilt in the next five years.

The majority of local authorities (50%) reported a year-on-year reduction in highway maintenance funding, and while £5.2 million was spent filling in potholes, local roads are only resurfaced on average once every 54 years.

Rick Green added: “The link between continued underinvestment and the condition of local roads is clear. 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.

“To ensure we have a safe, resilient and sustainable local road network, a longer-term approach and significant investment is still needed. ALARM 2022 indicates that what is needed in Wales is an additional £60.3 million a year over the next decade to address the backlog of repairs and allow local authority highway teams to bring the network up to a point from which it could be cost effectively maintained going forward.”

Jack Cousens, Head of Roads Policy at the AA, added: “Each year the debate around roads maintenance degenerates into a blame game between local authorities and Government as each claims it is the other’s responsibility to resolve.

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“Local and national government must get round the table and create a fully-funded plan that will help make our roads safer.

“There is now a need to focus available road funding on the most basic need: fixing the roads – for the benefit of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Despite talks of levelling up, road users would simply like the roads levelled out.”

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Education

“Stuck in a catch-22”: parents drive their children to school because they are concerned about traffic

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New polling data released for Living Streets’ Walk to School Week (16-20 May 2022) finds that traffic is one of the biggest barriers to children walking to school, with 17 per cent of parents in Wales naming it as a reason their child doesn’t walk.

With over 460,000 pupils in Wales, it would mean tens of thousands of them are being denied the physical and social health benefits of being more active.

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Schools being too far away from home (18%) and cars parked on pavements (17%) were also barriers for Welsh parents.

The latest data suggests just 50 per cent of primary school aged children in Wales walk to school.

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets said: “We’re stuck in a catch-22 where families see driving to school as the safest way to protect their children from traffic.

“Leaving the car at home will reduce chaos and road danger around the school gates. It’s also a great way for children to learn about road safety in a real life setting and build their confidence in managing risk.

“Walk to School Week is an excellent opportunity for families to give walking to school a go and reap the health and social benefits of moving more.”

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Living Streets works with schools, local authorities and parent groups to help improve the walk to school.

Stephen Edwards continues: “We want to enable as well as encourage more families to walk to school. We’re here to help parents who are worried about safety around their child’s school. Car-free zones, 20mph limits and better crossings can all help make the walk to school safer and we’re here to help people campaign for them in their area.”

For more information on Living Streets’ walk to school campaign, visit livingstreets.org.uk/WalkToSchool

(Lead image: Shutterstock)

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Dyfed Powys Police

Man banned from driving for 12 months for fishing offence

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A man from Merthyr Tydfil who travelled to the River Loughor, near Llanelli to fish using a barbaric and illegal method, has been banned from driving for 12 months as part of his sentence.

Vu Quang Tien pleaded guilty to an illegal fishing charge and also to a charge of obstruction of a Natural Resources Wales (NRW) Fisheries Enforcement Officer on 26 April at Swansea Magistrates Court.

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Mr Tien and two other anglers were witnessed by NRW Fisheries Enforcement Officers deliberately using the illegal foul hooking method of fishing – also known as snatching – at the river Loughor on 15 August 2021. NRW officers attended the site after several reports of illegal fishing were made to NRW’s 24/7 incident call centre by concerned members of the community.

When approached and questioned by NRW officers, Mr Tien and his accomplices showed significant hostility and reluctance to share identification documents which eventually had to be extracted by use of reasonable force.

All of Mr Tien’s fishing tackle and fish, along with his associates’ fishing tackle was seized by NRW Officers at the time of the incident. The district judge on the day at Swansea Magistrates Court gave permission to NRW to confiscate these items permanently from each of them.

The District Judge disqualified Mr Tien from driving for 12 months due to seriousness of the incident, and the premeditated and deliberate action of travelling such a distance to commit the offence.

He was also ordered to pay a total of £2,334 in fines, NRW costs and a victim surcharge.

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Mark Thomas, Fisheries Enforcement Officer for NRW, said: “We would like to again thank Dyfed Powys Police, the local communities and also the law-abiding anglers in the area for their continued support in reporting these illegal fishing activities.

“Foul hooking is a truly barbaric form of fishing carried out by a small minority of anglers in Wales, who have no regard for fish welfare.

“NRW and the Police take these incidents seriously as do the courts.

“Hopefully, the small minority of anglers who may in future, think of using any illegal fishing methods will take heed of the heavy fines and driving ban in this case issued by the courts.”

(Lead image: Natural Resources Wales)

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Motoring

Revealed: Swansea is one of the UK’s worst cities for road rage – although not as bad as Cardiff

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Swansea has been revealed as the 9th worst place in England and Wales for road rage according to new research.

The city saw 51 instances of recorded road rage in the last year.

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The Road Rage Index, was compiled by specialist car group Motorfinity, which sent Freedom of Information requests to police forces across the country.

Drivers in Swansea also had 15 cases of dangerous driving.

Cardiff topped the list, with 301 instances of drivers ranting at other road users in the city, followed by Leicester at 291.

A combined figure of 240 incidents puts Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton in third place.

Meanwhile, both Lancaster and Preston had 191 reports of road rage between them that attracted the attention of police, while Leeds had 108.

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Police forces for Birmingham, Coventry and Wolverhampton, and Lancaster and Preston were only able to provide the data when grouped with the other cities.

With 32 million motorists vying for space on British roads, it’s little surprise that things get heated. In fact, it’s claimed that more than half of the UK’s drivers admit to sometimes suffering from road rage whilst they’re driving.

Top 10 cities with the most road rage incidents

CityRoad rage incidents in 2021
1Cardiff301
2Leicester291
3Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton (combined)240
4Lancaster and Preston (combined)191
5Leeds108
6Sheffield79
7Bradford68
8Derby51
9Swansea51
10Hull49

As part of the research, Motorfinity also asked police forces for the number of counts of dangerous driving incidents, of which the city of Oxford came first with 480 counts, followed by 363 for Bradford.

Top five cities with the most dangerous driving incidents

CityDangerous driving incidents in 2021
1Oxford480
2Bradford363
3Leeds321
4Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton (combined)178
5Newport121

Motorfinity CEO Daniel Briggs believes that, although all the top 10 cities in the list are very busy urban areas, it doesn’t necessarily follow that more motorists means more anger.

He said: “The fact that the top few cities have so many more incidents than others suggests that drivers there may unknowingly copy each other’s bad behaviour. These results show that there are some clear hotspots when it comes to angry or impatient drivers.

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“It’s never ideal to be on the receiving end of road rage, but it’s also pretty unpleasant to be a regularly angry driver. Motoring should be an enjoyable experience, or at least one that people don’t dread.

“Given that road rage is generally considered commonplace, it’s likely that someone experiencing it has also been on the receiving end of another driver’s anger at some point. So, it’s worth remembering that a car door probably doesn’t insulate your emotions as much as you first think.”

It has been previously said that more than half of the UK’s drivers admit to regularly being angry at other motorists while they’re driving.

(Lead image: iStock)

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