Press releases

New ORR report shows England’s best and worst regions for motorway and A-road surface condition

11 October 2023
National Highways has consistently met its target of 96.2% of road surfaces on motorways and major A-roads being in ‘good condition’ and not requiring further investigation for maintenance. However, performance varies across National Highways’ regions.
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Motorway in England

A new report from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) shows that the condition of road surfaces in National Highways’ East region – covering Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Essex and Bedfordshire, is consistently lower than in the rest of England. The South West region, covering Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire, consistently performs the best.

ORR’s Benchmarking Road Surface Condition Report sheds light on the factors affecting road condition. The East region trails the national-level target by nearly 3 per cent, and has had the lowest proportion of good condition road surfaces for the last three years. The East region’s strategic road network has a higher proportion of A-roads, which are harder to maintain, and has more concrete roads, which do not perform as well as asphalt. However, new data shows that while these effects are significant, the East region underperforms even when these factors are accounted for.

ORR’s report also compares the condition of strategic road networks in Great Britain (GB) and the Netherlands – which takes a similar approach to measuring road condition as that used in GB. ORR finds similarities in the condition of strategic roads in England, Wales and Scotland. Road surfaces in the Netherlands are in overall better condition. The majority of road surfaces in the Netherlands are constructed of materials not typically used in GB. However, differences in performance were also evident when comparing roads constructed of similar materials.

Feras Alshaker, director of planning and performance at ORR said:

“National Highways has met its road surface condition performance target for the sixth year running. Our report is an important tool that we expect National Highways to use to understand the variations in the company’s regions and share intelligence with road operators elsewhere to help ensure performance is maintained at a consistently high level.

“We will continue to hold National Highways to account, including on road surface condition, a key output of its asset management decision making, on behalf of all users of the strategic road network.”

Notes to editors

  1. Benchmarking National Highways: road surface condition report 2023
  2. Road surface condition is an important determinant of driving experience and safety performance. A smooth and well-maintained road surface provides better traction, allowing vehicles to maintain control and reduce the risk of skidding or sliding, especially during adverse weather conditions.
  3. Between 2020 and 2025, National Highways will invest around £1.8bn in ongoing renewals of roads. Additionally, the company will invest £400m to upgrade ageing concrete roads.
  4. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) holds National Highways to account for achieving a national-level target for the proportion of roads assessed to be in ‘good condition’ and not requiring further investigation for maintenance.
  5. The Netherlands was identified in a feasibility study as a potential international comparator on the basis that its road network is broadly similar in character to the SRN. Furthermore, the approach to measuring condition in the Netherlands is sufficiently similar to allow quantitative comparison.
  6. Further information on National Highways’ performance and efficiency across all its activities can be found in our Annual Assessment.
  7. Further information of the relative performance of National Highways’ regions can also be found on our website.