29/06/2016 - 14:26

Roadwork backlog nears $850m

29/06/2016 - 14:26

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In a report released today, Auditor General Colin Murphy has expressed concern that Main Roads still focuses on critical maintenance instead of preventive work, despite a recommendation to change tack in a review seven years ago.

Roadwork backlog nears $850m
Road works at the intersection of East Parade and Graham Farmer Freeway (photo: Atilla Csaszar).

Auditor general Colin Murphy has expressed concern that Main Roads still focuses on reactive maintenance instead of preventive work, despite a recommendation to change tack in a review seven years ago.

At a total cost of $845 million, the backlog of work is slightly more than the 2009 figure of $820 million, although that number would be $950 million in 2016 dollars, meaning the amount has fallen moderately after adjusting for inflation.

In a report released today, Mr Murphy said the approach of Main Roads was still overall a focus on targeting maintenance when it becomes critical.

“Critical maintenance is more complex and expensive, leaving less capacity to do the preventative maintenance which over time would reduce both the backlog and whole-of-life costs,” he said.

Mr Murphy noted that Main Roads had prolonged the life of sections of the network by resurfacing, and had accrued more information to target maintenance funds.

“My major concern is that Main Roads is yet to use its improved information to develop strategies to move from a largely reactive approach to investing in preventative maintenance,” Mr Murphy said.

“Without that strategy, Main Roads is likely to continue to struggle to reduce the maintenance backlog and improve long-term value for money.

“The transition will take time, and critical maintenance cannot simply stop, but the longer the transition takes the greater the risk to this critical asset.”

The road network has aged considerably since the previous report, too, with 46 per cent, of the state’s road network more than 40 years old, compared with 32 per cent in the previous report.

The department made six recommendations.

These included establishing a consistent approach to calculating backlogs, standardising monitoring and evaluation of safety related maintenance tasks in crash investigations, and formalising guidance on prioritising maintenance in regional areas,all by the end of the year.

By July next year, Main Roads would need to implement a comprehensive strategy to minimise whole-of-life costs across the network.

Main Roads took all recommendations on board and said that the backlog would be reduced in the years ahead thanks to funding increases and a competitive market for engineering services in Perth.

“A comprehensive strategy to address the maintenance backlog focussing on whole of life cost will be implemented by July 2017,” the department said in its response.

“Structural changes have already been put in place so that capital and maintenance programming decisions are made in the one responsibility area.

“This will mean that maintenance funding decisions will not be made in isolation of planned future capital works projects.

“Pavement age alone does not reflect the pavement performance and many roads are performing well beyond their nominal 40-year design life.”

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