Published: Wednesday, 10th April 2024

Medway Council has written to the government seeking an urgent meeting on the challenges faced in maintaining the extensive road network and tackling the growing number of potholes.

In a letter to Guy Opperman, Minister for Roads and Local Transport, Council Leader, Cllr Vince Maple and Portfolio Holder Holder for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration, Cllr Simon Curry reveal that across Medway’s network there are an estimated 2,000 potholes that need repairing on key arterial roads and routes.

The estimated cost of repairing the roads to bring them up to a required standard is £50 million - and while government funding has increased marginally in recent years, it is not sufficient to cover this backlog along with the increasing cost of maintenance. 

Medway Council is responsible for maintaining more than 820km of highways across the borough. It is also responsible for the maintenance of the Medway Tunnel - a vital piece of the transport infrastructure for the South East as it helps move traffic across the Medway - and has repeatedly called on the government for appropriate funding to maintain the tunnel or for it to be re-designated to National Highways responsibility.

Medway is not alone in experiencing reductions in the amount it can spend on maintaining its road network. Research published last year by the Local Government Association revealed that spending on local road repairs in the UK has been reduced by more than nearly all the other OECD countries in almost two decades.

The report showed that expenditure on motorways is 31 times more per mile than on local roads and called for a pledge for a 10 year programme to boost local road and transport infrastructure, to reverse the decline in road conditions so local residents are not paying for more expensive pot hole repairs.

Additional funding is nowhere near sufficient

Commenting on the letter, Cllr Vince Maple said: “We know that the people of Medway are deeply unhappy with the state of our local roads and we are very sorry that our current financial situation no longer allows us to maintain the roads and fix potholes to the standard our residents and businesses deserve. The council has had some very difficult decisions to take around where we spend our money and although welcome, the additional £400,000 funding from the government this year is nowhere near sufficient to help us tackle the problems on our roads. I urge the government to work with us to look in detail at the challenges for the road network and potholes in Medway with a vision to get the adequate level of resources to ensure that all road users can feel safer travelling on Medway’s roads.”

Cllr Simon Curry commented: "Over the past year we repaired more than 15,000 potholes in Medway which was a significant increase on each of the previous five years. However, we know that enhancing the conditions of our roads is critical and it's important we direct funding to the right type of road improvements, which deliver better value for money improvements and lower lifetime carbon impacts, rather than short term pothole fixes."

Read Cllr Maple and Cllr Curry's letter to Guy Opperman below:

Dear Guy

We are writing to you regarding the current condition of Medway’s roads and in particular the challenging issue of potholes which we feel is compromising road safety. Since taking control of the Council in May it has been clear that the condition of the road network in Medway is simply not at a level which is acceptable. Our Officers’ current figures indicate that across our Medway network there are in the region of 2,000 potholes including on key arterial roads and routes.

Professional calculations estimate the sum required to bring all of Medway’s roads up to the standard which is reasonable is around £50 million. The reduction of local government funding has meant that over the last decade the conditions of the road network have reduced. Respectfully an extra £400,000 this year has done very little with such a fundamental challenge in quality and ongoing depreciation.

We have the additional road network pressure of the Medway Tunnel which we have repeatedly called on the government to give the appropriate resource or indeed be re-designated to National Highways. We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to look in detail at the challenges for the road network and potholes in Medway with a vision to get the adequate level of resources to ensure that all road users can feel safer travelling on Medway’s roads.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Vince Maple Leader, Medway Council

Councillor Simon Curry, Portfolio for Climate Change and Strategic Regeneration

Read more about road maintenance and management in Medway

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