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7 February 2024

Backlog and Steady State Model 2023: Executive Summary

Local authority road network condition is assessed via the Scottish Road Maintenance Condition Survey. Using specialist vehicles equipped with lasers and high-resolution cameras, a variety of road characteristics are recorded.

The collected data is assessed, and a Roads Condition Indictor (RCI) score assigned to each ten-meter stretch of road. This score allows categorisation of each section of road into one of three categories;

  • Green – where the road is generally in a good state of repair
  • Amber – where the road shows some apparent deterioration which should be investigated to determine the optimum time for planned maintenance
  • Red – where the road is in poor overall condition and likely to require planned maintenance soon (ie within a year or so)

The survey aims to cover all local authority A roads in both directions every two years, all B and C roads in both directions every four years and a 10% sample of unclassified roads every year, with the RCI for unclassified road being calculated from four years of combined data to give a rolling four-year indicator.

Overall Results

Since 2019, the overall condition of Scotland’s roads has improved with most authorities showing a modest improvement. This is reflected in the 2.7 percentage improvement change in overall RCI score.

The overall 2023 Scottish RCI score was 33.6%.

Scottish Headline Backlog Budget

The cost of treating all road sections categorised as red or amber within one year is known as the headline backlog budget.

Despite most authorities showing an improvement in their RCI, the 2023 backlog figure increased by 16.3% to £2.196 billion. This is primarily due to the increase in treatment costs since 2019.

Scottish Steady State Budget

The steady state budget is the cost to maintaining the network (accounting for annual deterioration)  in its current condition for ten years.

The total annual steady state budget for 2023 is £333.0 million. This is £12.1 million or 3.5% less than the 2019 steady state figure. The decrease can be attributed primarily to the improvement in RCI across most authorities.

Since the last Backlog and Steady State Report in 2019, Scottish local authorities have faced significant financial challenges including the increases in treatment rates as highlighted above.

With Audit Scotland noting that authorities are now entering the most difficult budget setting context seen for many years, it has never been more important to understand the condition of Scotland’s roads. Effective use of survey data and analysis is essential for the identification and application of the most impactful roads maintenance strategies.

For further details, please see the full SCOTS Backlog and Steady State Model 2023.