Economic, Environmental and Social Impact of Changes in Maintenance Spend on Roads in Scotland Summary Report

4 Summary of Impacts

The predicted conditions of the road network were derived using condition projection models currently in use by SCOTS (for the local road network) and Transport Scotland (for the trunk road network) and show that the network is expected to deteriorate over the analysis period for all three funding Scenarios.

The overall assessment has been undertaken using the standard framework recommended in STAG and summarised in Table 4.1 to Table 4.5. Each table addresses one of the STAG criteria listed in Section 1.3, assessing various sub-criteria within each of the criterion.

The evidence was collated from international published experience with a focus on those publications with more relevance to the Scottish context. The level of evidence for the impact of maintenance varied across the different criteria. Only some of the impacts could be quantified and those impacts are discussed in more detail in Section 5. Also, some impacts relate more to one type of road network (e.g. urban, rural, trunk or local road) and comment has been made where appropriate and where the context is not clear.

There are also some impacts not described by the above criteria. One of the more significant issues excluded from these criteria is public satisfaction. Transport Scotland and Local Authorities undertake road user or public satisfaction surveys each year or biennially. Results of the surveys for Transport Scotland confirm that vehicle users consider carriageway conditions important, and their dissatisfaction has increased in the last two surveys. Similar evidence was seen for Local Authorities. Although many Local Authority surveys are concerned mainly with general levels of service provided by the Authority (e.g. ease of access to the Authority) and do not address the details of road condition, answers to the general questions on road maintenance and state of the road network show clear increases in dissatisfaction. Some surveys show how the levels of service have deteriorated while some aspects have shown improvements (e.g. the level of satisfaction with street lighting has improved in one Authority since 2004 but the satisfaction with street cleaning in the same Authority has seen a bigger fall in satisfaction).

Table 4.1 Assessment of impacts on environmental criterion
Sub-criterion Issue Summary
Noise and vibration New projects New road projects adopt the latest standards and often provide noise mitigation measures (e.g. noise barriers in urban areas). Maintenance of noise barriers has not been considered in this study but it is likely that as maintenance budgets are reduced, the funding for the repair of existing barriers will be reduced.

New surfaces, to current standards, lead to low levels of vibration in adjacent buildings but in the early life of some new surfaces there may still be high levels of noise from the interaction between vehicle tyres and the road surface. The amount of maintenance reduces with the funding reductions, so this effect is likely to be reduced.
Road surfacings and traffic noise The desire to minimise resurfacing costs will lead to increased lives of surfacings and a pressure to adopt cheaper surfacings. After an initial settling-in period, surfacings generally generate more noise with trafficking as they age. Limited experience on Scottish local roads of potentially lower noise surfacings has been that they are of a similar final outturn cost but higher whole life cost as they do not last as long as other more traditional surfacings. The potential effect of changes in noise due to reduced maintenance expenditure is therefore considered neutral. The impact is more one of the lost opportunity to potentially invest in higher cost surfacings to reduce noise. There will only be a marginal effect due to ageing of existing road surfacings on the network.

As surfaces deteriorate and funding for routine maintenance (e.g. patching) reduces, the likelihood for potholes and other sudden surface discontinuities increases. It is these sudden changes in ride quality that lead to increased vibrations and noise in near-by buildings which are likely to be a concern to local communities but these have not been quantified in this study. Increases in vibrations might also adversely affect vehicle users, particularly those who drive for long periods (e.g. truck drivers).
Global air quality Vehicle use and road maintenance Reduced maintenance funding leads to less works activity and therefore lower gas emissions from maintenance works. There are also fewer vehicles delayed through maintenance sites. However, as roads deteriorate, vehicle speeds reduce and fuel consumption and the levels of emissions change. As vehicle engine efficiency improves, the levels of emissions will be reduced for the same amount of travel.

The effect of all these aspects has been quantified in Section 5 and shows a marginal reduction in CO2 when maintenance budgets are reduced. It is important to note that there might also be an increase in unplanned reactive work as the network deteriorates leading to changes in levels of gas emissions but no quantification of this effect has been possible.
Local air quality Vehicle use Local air quality due to vehicle use will be proportional to the effects of global air quality noted above. Overall there will be a marginal reduction in amounts of NOx (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide) and Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5) for both Scenarios (i.e. the 20% maintenance funding reduction and the 40% maintenance funding reduction). However these changes cannot be treated as indicative of changes in local air quality at specific sites.
Maintenance activity Reduced road maintenance will mean less planned maintenance work on the network. Particularly at major carriageway maintenance sites and for bridge or structures repairs, significant dust can be generated. With lower funding, the number of planned events may reduce and this may lead to better air quality, but this will be part offset by any increase in unplanned maintenance (e.g. more potholes and carriageway surface disintegration) and, potentially, other more significant and intrusive work (e.g. a weakened or collapsed structure requiring urgent repair).
Street cleaning Anecdotal evidence suggests that local air quality will deteriorate due to increased dust if streets are cleaned less but there is no quantified or reported evidence of this.
Water quality and drainage The purpose of routine and planned drainage maintenance is to keep existing drainage functional. If such activities are reduced, the risk of local flooding will increase, deterioration of the road structure is likely to accelerate and outfall water quality will reduce if maintenance of any drainage pollution controls is delayed. There is evidence of increases in the number of flooding events in recent years but there is no published evidence on the contribution of the effects of lower maintenance funding on these events.
Geology This sub-criterion is assumed to be unaffected by any change in road maintenance funding.
Biodiversity and habitats Street lighting There is evidence that bats will not fly in directly illuminated areas so any reductions in street lighting due to lower funding may be beneficial to the bat population.
Vegetation control Roadside vegetation provides important grassland habitats and migration routes for many species. It has been found that a reduction in appropriate vegetation control leads to increases in noxious plants and a decline in species rich habitats. Reduced funding may therefore have a negative impact on biodiversity.
Landscape, visual amenity and cultural heritage Customer satisfaction studies have shown the public has a clear impression of their local area and numerous studies support the 'broken windows' theory (i.e. poor amenity and appearance lead to an increased deterioration in the locality and the need for higher subsequent costs). Studies have also shown the public judge the need for maintenance on appearance. Studies by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) since 2001 have promoted the higher quality of life provided by improved streets (CABE, 2007). A survey has shown 85% of the people felt the standard of public space and environment provided by improved maintenance (e.g. road condition, clear signing, street furniture) and non-maintenance related expenditure (e.g. pedestrianisation, CCTV and alcohol free zones) impacted directly on the quality of life. Studies have however also shown that priorities of local residents do not always match the priorities of planners and designers and may lead to lower cost options for maintenance and improvements. The Audit Commission (2007) showed carriageway and footway repair to be a high cause of concern for the public.

At a workshop for experts and practitioners in this study, it was agreed that although quantified evidence of benefits from improved public realm is scarce, there is a strong case for improved amenity and cultural provision. It was also noted that standards for public amenity in Scotland are generally below those in other parts of Europe where more importance is given to achieving high standards of public realm.
Carriageways and Carriageways and footways CABE (CABE, 2007) showed people value improvements to their streets. Studies by Transport for London have valued the increase in residential prices and retail rents achieved by roadspace improvements or close proximity to open space (e.g. parks). Transport for London has demonstrated benefit-cost ratios of between 2.5 and 5.5, without indirect benefits, from improvements in the public realm. Other studies have shown improvements to footfall for retailers after carriageway and footway improvements. As well as showing the benefits of maintenance and improvements these valuations provide measures to use in attracting private sector funding for maintenance and improvements in local areas. Poor walking environments and transport links can leave areas isolated and damage community cohesion. Increases in cat and dog mess, litter, broken glass, vandalism and uneven footways all represent disincentives to the use of pedestrian footways and reduction in visual amenity. These negative impacts will be increased with reductions in maintenance funding for footways.
Landscape, visual amenity and cultural heritage Street cleaning If street cleaning is reduced, the amenity and cultural heritage of an area will decrease and levels of crime may increase. Evidence suggests that the public places importance on a clean environment such that, for example, only partial graffiti removal would still impact negatively. However, studies in New York have shown the public believed the cost of maintaining cleaner streets to improve the public realm was too high.

Experience from Perth and Kinross Council shows the severe impact on street cleaning costs from clearing the grit on footways used to reduce accidents during bad winter weather.
Street lighting Better street lighting leads to improved perception of an area and an increase in commercial development.
Agriculture and soils This sub-criterion has been assumed to be unaffected by the changes in the level of road maintenance funding considered in this study. (N.B. Winter maintenance is not included in this study).


Table 4.2 Assessment of impacts on safety criterion
Sub-criterion Issue Summary
Accidents Carriageways Road engineering is only one of the factors which might contribute to road accidents. For the reductions in maintenance funding considered, maintenance activities related directly to safety have been protected so the effects on accidents are minimised. Poor condition of the road surface can increase the risk of accidents due to skidding and also due to road users taking evasive action to avoid hazards (e.g. potholes). A majority of Scottish Local Authorities consider current levels of maintenance funding are a threat to road safety and that the threat has increased in the last year (Asphalt Industry Alliance, 2011). This view is likely to be exacerbated with the funding cuts considered in this study.

On Scottish trunk roads, a skid resistance policy has been implemented. A review of condition and accident trends suggests accidents due to skidding could increase from their current levels of around 400 to around 450 per year for the 40% funding reduction Scenario and this effect is monetised in Section 5. Only three Scottish Local Authorities that have implemented a similar policy have been identified and there is not enough evidence to draw any conclusions on the impacts in these Authorities. International evidence suggests the risk of skidding will reduce with the introduction of skid resistance policies. Introduction of a skid policy might only reprioritise existing road surfacing funds and it will inevitably require start-up and monitoring investment which may be considered unaffordable if road maintenance funding is reduced. Funding reductions potentially represent a lost opportunity to reduce road accidents due to poor skid resistance on local roads.
Structures Failure of a structure can be catastrophic and make headline news. Funding for recovery from such failures would likely be found from other parts of the maintenance budget. Whilst maintenance funding for road safety aspects has been protected in each of the funding reduction Scenarios in this study, there will almost inevitably be an increase in the risk of failures as budgets reduce. Infrastructure failures (e.g. failures of structures) potentially result in accidents for all types of road users. The likely costs of those accidents have not been estimated in this study.
Accidents Street lighting Historically, one of the justifications for the introduction of street lighting has been to reduce road accidents. With recent constrained funding and an aim to reduce the carbon footprint of road network operations, some UK Authorities have reduced the level of street lighting and reported no disbenefit, but the balance of evidence still suggests lighting reduces the risk of accidents (e.g. street lighting enables pedestrians to identify and avoid defects which could cause accidents). With selective (e.g. part of the night) reductions in street lighting (i.e. targeting low risk areas first), it might be possible to avoid significant increases in the risk of accidents but for the 40% funding reduction Scenario (which assumed a reduction of 23% in street lighting budgets) it is likely that safety risks will increase. For example, a coarse analysis quantified in Section 5 suggests accidents (all injuries) could increase by around 46 per year (from current levels of around 2000) on the local road network following a 40% reduction in maintenance funding.
Footways and cycle-tracks All evidence suggests increased deterioration of footways and cycle-tracks will cause an increased safety risk to pedestrians and cyclists but it has not been possible to quantify the impact for the Scenarios in this study. Over 10 years, one Scottish urban council paid out nearly 10 times more for claims due to footway incidents than claims due to car damage.
Security Street lighting Low levels of street lighting and poorly maintained street lighting furniture increase the public fear of crime. Funding reductions that lead to lower levels of lighting will therefore reduce the use of streets for walking and cycling. Studies in Dudley, West Midlands and in Stoke-on-Trent found that improved levels of street lighting lead to reductions of more than 40% in recorded crime and that crime is not displaced.
Street cleaning This issue has been discussed under landscaping and amenity in Table 4.1.
Footways Reduced care of footways and roadside environments (e.g. fence repairs, surface repairs, vegetation control) increases the perceived risk of crime for the public and serves as a deterrent to use. This will lead to lower social interaction in neighbourhoods which increases the risks of crime. Funding reductions will exacerbate any such risks (perceived or real), especially among certain groups (e.g. the elderly).


Table 4.3 Assessment of impacts on economy criterion




Transport economic efficiency

Vehicle operating costs

Deterioration in road conditions will cause an increase in vehicle operating costs (e.g. fuel consumption, vehicle damage due to defects). The effect is quantified in Section 5. For all roads, the increased total undiscounted costs for the 40% funding reduction Scenario, compared with the constant funding Scenario are incurred by cars (around 56%), trucks (around 20%) and vans and buses (around 24%).

In the 40% funding reduction Scenario for local roads, in 2020 (i.e. before expenditure is assumed to increase), the undiscounted costs represent an annual additional 0.6 pence per vehicle km for cars, 1.3 pence per vehicle km for vans, 2.2 pence per vehicle km for buses and 3.6 pence per vehicle km for trucks at 2002 prices compared to the costs for the Scenario with no funding reductions. For trunk roads, the corresponding costs are lower at 0.2 pence per vehicle km for cars, 0.3 pence per vehicle km for vans, 1.6 pence per vehicle km for buses and 1.1 pence per vehicle km for trucks.

Journey times

Deterioration in road conditions will cause increases in travel time as vehicle travel slower on roads in poorer condition. The effect is quantified in Section 5. In the 40% funding reduction Scenario, in 2020 before maintenance expenditure is assumed to increase, the longer journey times represent an annual additional 1,349,351 hours for cars, 239,629 hours for vans, 30,998 hours for buses and 186,980 hours for trucks on all (trunk and local) roads. This effect is, however, more than offset by less disruption to journeys due to reduced roadworks, which have also been quantified. The effects of increases in unplanned maintenance or route diversions that might occur with reduced planned maintenance were not assessed.

Infrastructure failures are likely to increase journey times for all types of road users due to travel diversions. The possible effects on road user journey times from potential breaks in network links has been demonstrated in this study by relating the effects to the experience gained from the earthworks failure at Rest and Be Thankful on the A83 (Argyll and Bute). Although the effects are relatively small, they can cause significant local issues and affect economic activity (e.g. freight diversions and loss of passing trade).

Journey reliability

It was not possible to quantify the effects of decreased journey time reliability due to the potential increase in risk of disruptions on the network (e.g. due to failure of signs, signals, structures or other assets). Analysis of data from the closure of the A83 at Rest and Be Thankful demonstrated that if the disruption is of short duration, the costs to road users of that disruption are unlikely to outweigh savings from reduced direct maintenance costs or the changes in road user costs that occur when maintenance budgets are reduced. Nevertheless, no matter how small, the effect still serves to increase costs to society.

Transport economic efficiency

Journey quality

The journey quality for all users will deteriorate under all the funding scenarios considered. Rougher roads are less comfortable to drive on, reduced lighting (if applied on parts of the network) will affect the ease of driving and the visual appearance of the roadway will deteriorate for both road users and local residents. Customer satisfaction surveys for the trunk road network show that road users regard roads in poor condition as one of the most significant detractors on their journeys, and Local Authorities will face similar concerns.

Local Authority customer satisfaction surveys show the reduction in satisfaction with road maintenance and road condition to be the source of two of the biggest reductions in satisfaction with Local Authority services in recent years, although this may have been influenced by the particularly severe winter weather conditions in some of those years. The level of public satisfaction is expected to continue to fall under all 3 funding scenarios considered.

Planned maintenance

Reductions in the maintenance budget are aimed primarily at planned maintenance activities. Studies have shown that the costs of recovering from deterioration in infrastructure quality are much higher than the costs of retaining existing quality levels.

Wider economic benefits and economic activity and location impacts have not been considered further in this study. Surveys of business attraction to Scotland include the quality of transport availability such as airport connections, but do not address the more detailed issues of maintenance of road surfaces or the value of amenity and cultural provision. The effects are therefore considered marginal.

Infrastructure failures are likely to decrease economic activity and reduce local trade. The possible effects on local trade from potential breaks in network links have not been assessed in this study. Nevertheless, it is clear that failure of a major road through an area will decrease traffic flow into the area and reduce trade.


Table 4.4 Assessment of impacts on integration criterion
Sub-criterion Item Summary
Policy integration Physical fitness and health The Scottish Government is seeking improved health outcomes which are in many cases strongly linked to the levels of physical fitness of a community. The potential for increased severance noted under the accessibility and social inclusion criterion will be a disincentive for affected communities to maintain physical fitness levels.

There are strong connections between road condition and policies on health and obesity as poor carriageway and footway condition deter walking and cycling. Road condition also affects equalities since women will often view the public realm differently from men, primarily because of fear of crime and being alone in an unsafe environment. The success of Government policies (e.g. Cycling Action Plan for Scotland, Route Map to Healthy Weight) is directly related to the standard of provision of carriageways, footways and cycle-tracks.

Scottish Government policies for Designing Streets (2007) and Designing Places (2001) set out the policies for streets and communities. They include Ministerial statements on the value placed on delivering healthy lifestyles and growing local economies which are closely linked to well designed and well maintained environments. Designing Streets puts people and places before the movement of vehicles: "Attractive and well-connected street networks encourage more people to walk and cycle to local destinations, improving their health while reducing motor traffic, energy use and pollution".

The health benefits of increased walking (i.e. if 1 in 100 currently inactive people took adequate exercise) have been estimated to save the National Health Service in Scotland £85m per year (Scottish Government, 2003).

Transport integration and transport and land-use integration have not been considered further in this study. The effects of levels of maintenance funding on these aspects are considered marginal.

Table 4.5 Assessment of impacts on accessibility and social inclusion criterion
Sub-criterion Item Summary
Community accessibility Remote communities New investment may be focused on improving links with rural communities which often do not show a quantifiable economic benefit. Lifeline roads, where there is usually only one route for access to a community, will be strongly affected if the condition of the route significantly deteriorates. Road maintenance management approaches inevitably focus funding where risks and traffic are most significant, therefore it is expected that remote communities will suffer a bigger disadvantage if maintenance funding is reduced and less used routes are not prioritised.
Structures, footpaths, cycle-tracks Potential increases in risk of structural failure could have a significant effect on community accessibility (e.g. a bridge spanning a river with a community on both sides of the river). However, due to safety concerns it is likely that such assets will be shielded the most from the effect of budget reductions but catastrophic failures of these assets would likely result in diversion of funding from other parts of the maintenance budget. If facilities such as pedestrian underpasses or footpaths are poorly maintained and suffer reduced use due to fears of crime and accidents, as noted elsewhere, a similar effect of severance will be realised in the long term. Studies in the Netherlands have shown that well kept public areas had fewer incidents of dishonesty, suggesting they reduce the propensity to criminal activity, echoing the broken window theory noted in Table 4.1.
Comparative accessibility Older people Older people are more likely to be adversely affected if there are more and worse defects on footways and if street lighting and other amenity assets and activities are reduced. The elderly have a greater fear of crime and potential accidents and will therefore experience a comparatively bigger effect from these impacts than other road users.
People with disabilities Under the Disability Discrimination Act (Transport Scotland, 2009) Local Authorities must ensure that road maintenance policies do not disadvantage disabled people. Uneven footways have a bigger impact on people with disabilities (e.g. visual impairment, or mobility) so that deterioration in the quality of such assets will have a comparatively bigger effect on disabled people. The Disability Discrimination Act: Good Practice for Roads (2009) lays out clearly the accessibility standards needed to enable disabled people to use road environments.

If carriageways and footways fall below accepted standards of accessibility then this will have a direct impact on the use of the road network by disabled people by affecting access to local businesses and facilities, and thus increasing the severance for those affected.
Comparative accessibility Pedestrians An increase in roadside noise or deterioration in local air quality, visual amenity and appearance (e.g. graffiti) and street lighting will have a comparatively bigger effect on pedestrians than other road users. Deterioration in road and footway condition can deter movement by pedestrians, particularly the elderly, adults with young children and the disabled. Reductions in planned maintenance will put more pressure on the need for unplanned maintenance and delays to unplanned maintenance will further deter pedestrians.
Cyclists Reduction in traffic calming measures will lead to less favourable conditions for cyclists (where the measures adequately address the needs of cyclists). Poorly maintained road surfacing with loose material, uneven edges and potholes increase the risk of accidents and are a major deterrent for cyclists. Such budget areas are often one of the first carriageway items to be reduced when funding is constrained. It is therefore likely that, for a given level of reduction in funding, cyclists will experience comparatively bigger impacts than other road users. Reductions in planned maintenance will put more pressure on the need for unplanned maintenance and delays to the unplanned maintenance will further deter cyclists.