Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts of Changes in Maintenance Spend on Local Roads in Scotland

3 Evidence of the Impacts of Reductions in Road Maintenance

3.1 Overview

A literature review has been completed to underpin the quantitative analyses and is described in the report for the trunk roads study (Transport Scotland, 2011b) (Transport Scotland, 2011b). Specifically, the impacts investigated included:

  • Travel time impacts due to roadworks and deteriorating road conditions
  • Accident costs due to deteriorating road conditions and reduced lighting
  • Vehicle operating costs due to deteriorating road conditions
  • CO2 emissions associated with the above impacts

For this study for local roads, a further literature review has been undertaken to focus on the wider associated impacts of potential reductions in maintenance expenditure. The review has been undertaken also to consider any specific issues related to a local (non-trunk) road context. For example, road maintenance cuts may have a more significant impact on pedestrians and local communities in an urban Local Authority context. The review focused on the following impacts as defined by STAG:

  • Environmental
    - Noise and vibration
    - Global and local air quality
    - Biodiversity
    - Visual amenity
    - Cultural
    - Landscape
    - Physical fitness
  • Safety
    - Accidents including vehicle accidents directly related to road condition
    - Security
  • Economy (transport economic efficiency)
    - Vehicle operating costs, including those already captured quantitatively
  • Integration
    - Policy integration
  • Accessibility and social inclusion
    - Community accessibility
    - Comparative accessibility

The report also identifies other impacts of maintenance funding which were uncovered as part of the review and which were considered as part of a workshop, organised by the Wider Economic Issues Working Group as part of the National Road Maintenance Review for Scotland, held during the study. The workshop identified impacts on the consequences of maintenance which could not currently be quantified. The outcome from the workshop has been recorded in Appendix M.

3.2 Results of the review

3.2.1 Relevance and value

The literature searches produced a total of 131 documents (32 from the Working Group) covering findings from mostly the UK and Europe. Of the 131 documents, 66 have been assessed as relevant (see Appendix B for more details on the literature screening).

3.2.2 Coverage

The evidence was assessed against a coverage matrix of impacts (from the STAG criteria) and activities or assets associated with road maintenance on which this aspect of the study focused. The coverage matrix is given in Table 3.1.

Table 3.1 Document relevance and coverage matrix

Table 3.1 Document relevance and coverage matrix

3.2.3 Conclusions

There is a considerable amount of published material on the various potential benefits and impacts of transport investment. However, when the search is narrowed to the more specific impacts of road maintenance and potential funding scenarios, there is much less literature available. In particular, availability of any quantified evidence is extremely limited. Of 66 documents that were classified as relevant, only 12 contained direct evidence about the economic and social impacts of shortfalls in road maintenance.

The key evidence has been collated from the review and categorised according the STAG criteria as shown in Appendix B. This shows where the key gaps are terms of the areas noted in Table 3.1. It was also noted that benefits were identified that do not fit the current STAG criteria (e.g. changes in retail activity and increases in house prices). The following summary conclusions have been drawn:

  • The coverage of the relevant papers is concentrated around the safety, economic and accessibility and social inclusion impacts. There is little evidence in the literature of the environmental impacts of the reduction in maintenance
  • Based on the literature review, it could be concluded that the user group most affected by a reduction in road maintenance would be pedestrians, especially those with mobility and visual impairments. Pedestrians would be affected in many aspects including noise and vibration, global air quality, visual amenity, cultural and landscape, physical fitness, accidents, security, community and comparative accessibility.
  • There is a lack of quantified evidence in the literature on the impacts for cycle-tracks and drainage
  • Road maintenance supports other Government initiatives (e.g. Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (Scottish Government, 2010a))
  • Reviewing the information by asset types such as carriageway, structures, footways and cycle-tracks, the evidence shows that the impacts are mainly related to safety, economy and accessibility and social inclusion.
  • Lighting provides benefits from reduced crime and improved mobility.
  • There have been initiatives to reduce long-term costs of maintenance by innovative funding arrangements (e.g. using health service budgets for winter maintenance of footways) and by work planning (e.g. coordination of maintenance and utilities works) to reduce the number of future interventions at the same site. These are examples of preventive spend which aim to reduce longer term costs which is in line with the Christie Commission (Scottish Government, 2011) principles.
  • Evidence has shown improved street-scene leads to higher commercial activity (and increased retail rents) and higher house prices (e.g. increases of approximately 5% in attractive areas).

The following Sections of the report describe the specific analyses and reviews of the Scottish local road context undertaken during this study. Key issues from the literature review and the analyses have been drawn together into the overall study conclusions in Section 14.