My last audit of the maintenance of the state road network in 2009 highlighted a significant backlog of overdue maintenance and the need for Main Roads to improve key information to target repairs in a cost effective way and to take a long-term focus to managing the network.
Seven years later the backlog of overdue maintenance remains significant at $845 million, and Main Roads overall approach is still to do 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.
There have been improvements. Main Roads has invested in resurfacing to prolong the expected life of sections of the network, and it also has much better information to support targeting of 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. 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.