§ Mr. Gordon Prentice
To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions for what reasons the present form of the annual road maintenance survey is to be discontinued; how the replacement statistical series will differ; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Jamieson
The National Road Maintenance Condition Survey (NRMCS) reports on the condition of roads, footways, kerbs and verges in England and Wales. It was introduced in 1977 as a visual survey of defects and subsequently extended to include surveys of structural condition and skidding resistance. Recent technical advances and organisational changes affecting the management of the national and local road networks have provided the opportunity to collect the information more efficiently.
In future, the data for statistics of road maintenance conditions will be those which each authority now collects in order to manage its own network and to produce best value performance indicators. This has a number of advantages. Firstly, there will be cost savings to authorities as they will no longer be asked to collect separate data for NRMCS. This should also give rise to increased response rates. Secondly, the new methods of data collection use latest technology to monitor the whole of the road network, as opposed to a sample of 100 m road lengths as in the old NRMCS. As a result, we will be able to publish meaningful comparisons at authority and regional level for the first time which will also serve to improve the accuracy of the national results.
The new survey will be more comprehensive than the old NRMCS. Coverage will include motorways (excluded from the old visual survey), and roads with a concrete running surface will come within the survey for the first time. In addition the condition of cycleways will be recorded.
The new information will also enable the monitoring of two objectives in the 10-Year Plan for Transport—halting local road deterioration by 2004 and eliminating the backlogs in their maintenance by 2010–11. The new survey will continue to provide information on the condition of roads but should also enable the calculation of more precise estimates of the amount of outstanding maintenance than those currently derived from the visual survey.
These new arrangements are being phased in over three years. Each part of the new survey will run in parallel with the corresponding part of the old survey for a period of one year to ensure consistency over time.