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Road Resurfacing

Volume 742: debated on Thursday 14 December 2023

Mr Speaker, before responding, given that these are the last Transport questions of the year, may I put on record my gratitude to the staff of the House, and also to those across the transport sector who will be working tirelessly across the Christmas period to ensure that families can get together and goods can keep moving?

As part of the Prime Minister’s Network North plan, the Government are providing a record funding increase of £8.3 billion for local highways maintenance over the next decade, which will enable local highway authorities to resurface roads up and down the country.

Potholes are a scourge everywhere, so I am not only very grateful for the additional Government funding, but very impressed by the responsiveness and the quality of work by Dudley Council’s highways department. Will the Secretary of State agree to visit Dudley, and would he support tighter contracting frameworks by local authorities so that utility companies and others are made to pay for all the consequences of their substandard work?

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, including for telling us about the good work that his local authority is doing to improve the quality of local roads. Utility companies already have legal duties to ensure that their works and reinstatements are to required standards. Earlier this year, we introduced a new performance-based street works regime to crack down on the worst performing companies leaving behind poor road surface repairs that can lead to more potholes. Those with higher failure rates are now inspected more often and are charged for it, so companies are incentivised to carry out good-quality reinstatements first time and to repair existing defects.

As a civil engineer, I am always excited to hear about more money being spent on the highways, but is the Secretary of State aware of the Pothole Pro? This is a machine, developed by Staffordshire-based JCB, that can allegedly repair a pothole in as little as eight minutes. Should that sort of technology be rolled out across the country so that we do not just spend more money, but spend it more effectively?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight the importance of tools to deliver increased productivity so that we get more for what we spend. I was lucky enough to visit JCB myself and see the Pothole Pro in action, as well as the innovative work it is doing, as a fantastic world leader in innovation, on some of its hydrogen engines for its mobile off-road machinery. I am sure that local councils will look carefully at the Pothole Pro and other technologies that can help us make the best use of that record investment in road improvements.

The Secretary of State will know that we all want good roads, but we also want safe roads. Can I draw his attention to the dreadful road accidents killing young people recently? Is he aware that over the last 13 years, from being one of the safest places in the world in terms of road safety and deaths on the roads, we are steadily becoming very bad indeed? Will he do something about that, if he can?

I of course share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about the deaths of anyone on the roads, but particularly of young people. I do not recognise the characterisation he has set out. Our road safety record remains one of the best in the world. [Interruption.] Well, it does. The Department spends a great deal of resource on campaigns to get people to drive more safely, and we do that when we are engineering and delivering new roads. Safety is one of the very important things that we think about as we design and roll out new road infrastructure.