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Roads: Surveying

Volume 479: debated on Thursday 17 July 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport (1) for what reason the CHART visual survey data collected by local highway authorities on principal and classified roads across England for the 2007 national road conditions survey were not collated and published; (213386)

(2) for what reason the CHART visual surveys on all roads were discontinued; what account was taken of the advice of highways officers on the UK Roads Board road performance management group in making the decision; and if she will make a statement;

(3) what consultations her Department conducted with professional groups and local highway authorities before the decision to discontinue CHART visual surveys on all roads was taken;

(4) what assessment she has made of the effects of the lack of 2007 visual survey data for principal and classified roads on long-term trend studies into road condition; and if she will make a statement;

(5) what methodology will be used to survey the condition of unclassified roads in 2008;

(6) what information is available for members of the public to determine whether road conditions, other than for roads under the control of the Highways Agency, are improving or deteriorating.

The Government recognise the need for national data which may be used to monitor whether the condition of roads is improving or deteriorating. But there has been mounting dissatisfaction over a number of years with the quality of CHART visual surveys, which are based on judgments of conditions by engineers, and a programme of work is taking place supported by the Department and the UK Roads Board to develop more sophisticated machine-based surveys.

The 2006 statistical report on road conditions stated that CHART data would not be collected in 2007 for classified roads. More extensive and detailed data would instead become available from machine scans of the road surface (SCANNER surveys), the same source used by local authorities for reporting best value performance indicators (BVPIs) on classified road condition. This same source will be used for authorities reporting against their local area agreements. The Department has commissioned research to develop appropriate methods for producing national estimates from these complex data, which should be available in 2009. At that point, it will be possible to produce several years’ results at once to allow analysis of trends in the condition of classified roads.

Indicators from the BVPI reporting regime were also included in the statistical report “Road Conditions in England 2007”. These can be compared with the BVPI results which were reported in previous statistical reports.

CHART visual surveys for the unclassified network continued until 2007-08, but, following consultation with the LGA and with the UK Roads Board, have not been requested in 2008-09. Most local authorities rely on their own programme of inspection and asset management to determine the condition and maintenance needs of unclassified roads, and there has been a declining response rate to the request for CHART data to support the national survey, with only two-thirds of local authorities responding in 2007-08.

The Road Conditions in England statistical report published in June 2008 provided members of the public and highway officers with the latest information on road conditions. The next statistical report, intended for publication in 2009, will include several years’ data on classified roads. For unclassified roads, DFT will continue to work with the UK Roads Board to determine how best to measure and survey road conditions with an intention of national surveys every three to five years.

Members of the public interested in the condition of their own authority’s roads will have available annual indicators published as part of local area agreements. Many authorities also publish their own local data. We have encouraged authorities to prepare asset management plans for local authority, and have announced that at least £15 million will be available to help them do so in 2009-10.