BITUMEN emulsion manufacturers are urging the new Labour government to support local authorities in prioritising preventative highway maintenance to future-proof local roads against potholes.

The Road Emulsion Association (REA), which represents all the UK bitumen emulsion manufacturers is calling on Labour to adequately fund local authorities so they can increase the use of Surface Dressing.

Surface Dressing has declined in use by 46% over the last 11 years with 2023 being the lowest year since records began in 1978. Yet in 2023/2024, one pothole was filled every 16 seconds, costing a staggering £143.5 million.

By making preventative maintenance, such as Surface Dressing, part of an annual roads maintenance strategy, local authorities can begin to tackle the backlog of potholes and simultaneously preserve the life of good roads.

Kevin Maw, business secretary and consultant, REA, said: “We can turn this situation around. Good roads do still exist and that is because the local authority in that area has invested in preventative measures such as Surface Dressing, while still tackling other roads riddled with potholes. Preventative and reactive maintenance can co-exist within the same strategy, but the emphasis must be on prioritising planned preventative maintenance processes to reduce the need for high-cost reactive responses.

“However to do this effectively, local authorities need to be properly funded. Not just with pothole funds that are simply a sticking plaster, but with long-term maintenance budgets that allow councils to manage their assets properly.”

Surface Dressing can extend the life of roads by 10 to 15 years per application and can be applied on numerous occasions over the life of the road. The process prevents water ingress, reducing cracks and potholes from forming in the first place. It is also a more sustainable solution with up to 75% less bitumen and up to 80% less aggregate per square metre than thin asphalt surface courses.

Notes to editors

The Road Emulsion Association represents all UK bitumen emulsion manufacturers. Established in 1928, the REA aims to influence policy, share best practice and keep members updated with recent academic research.

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