Surrey is responsible for the construction, improvement and maintenance of our Highways – except for the A3 (E3) and the M25 (E250) which are currently maintained by the English Highways Agency.
Surrey is one of the most densely populated counties in England. Its proximity to London and both Heathrow and Gatwick airports means high demand is placed on the county’s roads from people travelling in, to, from and through the county. As Surrey’s population is projected to continue growing at an average annual rate of 3.6% over the next 20 years, the pressure on the road and pavement network will only increase.
In 2011, the percentage of Surrey’s roads in a critical (or red) condition stood at 17%. This compared with a national average of 10% which prompted the Conservative administration to launch “Project Horizon” – an attempt to find ways to improve Surrey’s road conditions without spending the £200m that the administration had been told would be needed. This later became “Operation Horizon” – a five year programme to implement a plan to increase the replacement of critical (red) road surfaces every year from 60km to 100km without any significant increase in funding.
Surrey is responsible for the maintenance of 10 square kilometres of pavements across the county. Surrey’s own calculations suggest that the current backlog of pavements repair work required to all footways to a good standard would cost around £80 million.
Highways current situation
The Year 1 Operation Horizon Report showed that the scheme delivered 133km of resurfaced roads at a cost of £31.7m (slightly over its £31.5m budget). The performance of Year 2 of Project Horizon is due to be reviewed imminently in October 2015. However, so far Project Horizon does not appear to be having a significant impact on Surrey residents’ satisfaction with Surrey’s Conservative administration’s delivery of road maintenance. Surrey own residents’ survey for 2014/15 showed that 62.% of all respondents were either fairly or very dissatisfied with Surrey’s road maintenance performance.
The net satisfaction score of -32.3% marks a less than 1 percentage point increase on 2012/13 (-33.1%), the year before Operation Horizon began. The most recent figures released by Surrey for 2015 show that the percentage of roads in the county in poor condition now stands at 13%. This is down from the 17% figure recorded in Surrey. However, this pre-Horizon figure has already started to improve in the year 2012/13 and therefore the whole 4% improvement cannot alone be attributed to Operation Horizon.
A report by the RAC Foundation in January 2015 revealed that Surrey had the highest number of claims against it of any county government in Britain for damage caused to vehicles by potholes in the 2013/14 financial year. Surrey received a total of 3912 claims, of which 842 were successful. The total cost to Surrey was £250,289 and the number of claims was up 71% from 2012/13.
Footways current situation
Despite Surrey estimating that an £80m investment would be needed to bring all their pavements up to a good standard, the 2015/16 budget for pavement repair works amounts to only £2m. Surrey’s “Footway Network Survey” for 2014 showed that a third of all the county’s footways were “functionally or structurally impaired.”
What have the Liberal Democrats at County Hall done? The Surrey Liberal Democrats manifesto for the 2013 County Council elections set out a commitment to “repair potholes, signs, and bollard more quickly and to a higher standard.” Since then, the Liberal Democrat group have sought to hold the Conservative administration to account by highlighting their failure to deliver for Surrey residents and proposing our own solution to the ongoing problems affecting the county’s highways and footways.
Highways Surrey County Council Lib Dems have consistently called on the Conservatives to introduce more ambitious plans to resurface local roads and increase investment in pothole repair. We highlighted the Conservative administration’s failure to make the case last year to Whitehall when it was revealed that both Kent and Hampshire had received significantly more central government funding for pothole repairs (£8m and £5m more respectively). In response to the Council’s most recent Budget in February 2015, Surrey Lib Dems highlighted a £400,000 reduction in funding for Highways and Transport and called on the Conservatives to use money left from underspends in other departments to inject more funding into the local road network.
Footways Surrey Lib Dems obtained figures on the condition of Surrey’s walkways by questioning the Conservatives at County Hall. We discovered that 33% of all walkways in the county were “functionally or structurally impaired” and that the pavements repair budget for 2014/15 only proposed to fix 10.4km of pavements – just 0.6% of all the functionally or structurally impaired footways. The Council’s rate of repairs would mean that it would take 167 years to reconstruct all the failing footways – and this does not even take account of the remaining two thirds of pavements which would also become “functionally impaired” over time.
Our Commitment to Surrey Residents Our manifesto will make a commitment to have a continued programme to resurface Surrey’s roads until there are no roads that are in poor condition. We will also start a programme to resurface or re-pave Surrey’s footways until there are no footways in poor condition.