Road condition and defects - From the chamber 18th January 2024

21 Jan 2024
Paul examining the newly resurfaced road

Wokingham Borough has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the country and, as we all see, high levels of traffic. The Borough Council, as a local highways authority, is responsible for around 450 miles of roads and the associated roadside footways and gullies, plus all the associated signs and other items.

The roads we use today evolved from the original horse and cart tracks and were initially surfaced with all types of materials for early motorised transport, before highway engineering took over designing them to cope with ever increasing levels and weight of traffic.

As our population increased and water, gas, electricity, telecoms and sewage were needed to be provided to households, these were most often placed within the road under legislation at the time. At that time, with only occasional traffic and low-quality surfaces this was the easiest way to install, maintain or replace cables and pipes.

Fast forward to today, and on average our surfaced roads have to be dug up 5,300 times each year, three out of four of which are undertaken by utility companies. However good their work, the joint between the original surface and its reinstatement becomes a weakness with increased potential for future defects. Traffic and weather then get to work on the road structure, especially those older roads whose base were not designed for the current traffic levels.

Utility works have a guarantee period, and any which cause an issue within the guarantee period remain the responsibility of the utility to repair. Those that are beyond guarantee become the responsibility of the local authority. Add in our changing climate with wetter winters, more flooding and drier hotter summers and it’s inescapable that our road network is deteriorating faster than ever before. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians see the effect of this on a daily basis.

The latest national survey has identified a backlog of road maintenance across the country that will cost over £14 billion to rectify. Government funding of local councils over the last 10 years has simply not kept pace with need. Recent one-off grants, often made into big headlines by aggregating them over wide areas and many years, are barely keeping up with the rate of deterioration, let alone allowing councils to address the backlog. It may suit the government to point the finger at councils, but their responsibility for the funding crisis is clear.

The council undertakes an annual condition survey against a national standard, for the Department for Transport. We know our roads are deteriorating and need more investment, but also we know from the most recent data that Wokingham’s roads are in much better condition than the average for the South East and England. Though I know this may be little comfort to residents when they come across defects.

In 2023 we started a new programme of preventative maintenance that included a special over-seal of the joints in the road surface which cause most of the issues. We did this ahead of the winter, when our roads are particularly vulnerable when freezing conditions and rain combine to attack all the existing joints. Our inspection and repair teams work flat out to respond to these conditions alongside their winter work to keep roads open and safe.

The Borough Council inspects highways following a regular schedule but without an army of inspectors it’s not possible to find every defect when it first becomes significant.

Direct reports from residents letting us know when new defects appear is a vital part of keeping the roads safe, and we are hugely grateful to everyone who helps in this way. All reports from the public are followed up and action taken where defects are safety critical. Other defects which have the potential to become critical are put onto a monitoring schedule.

You can report defects on the Wokingham Borough Council web site under Roadworks and outdoor maintenance tab, then Report a problem with roads and streets. Or use this link:

Cllr Paul Fishwick, Executive member for Active Travel, Transport and Highways and ward member for Winnersh.


This website uses cookies

Like most websites, this site uses cookies. Some are required to make it work, while others are used for statistical or marketing purposes. If you choose not to allow cookies some features may not be available, such as content from other websites. Please read our Cookie Policy for more information.

Essential cookies enable basic functions and are necessary for the website to function properly.
Statistics cookies collect information anonymously. This information helps us to understand how our visitors use our website.
Marketing cookies are used by third parties or publishers to display personalized advertisements. They do this by tracking visitors across websites.