Road cri­sis laid bare – repairs to cost nearly £100m

● Road safety char­ity slates ‘feast or famine’ ap­proach

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - FRONT PAGE - BY KIRSTEN ROBERTSON

Aberdeen­shire’s road net­work has reached “cri­sis point” with a new doc­u­ment re­veal­ing a crip­pling back­log of repairs to­talling £99 mil­lion. It has been claimed the back­log is “grow­ing big­ger by the day” and ham­per­ing busi­nesses and liveli­hoods across the north-east.

The rev­e­la­tions emerged in an Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil re­port ex­plor­ing the au­thor­ity’s road net­work in terms of size, value and condition – while also pre­sent­ing in­vest­ment sce­nar­ios to con­sider for the fu­ture.

The re­port was the first of its kind af­ter the au­thor­ity last year agreed to fully in­ves­ti­gate its de­te­ri­o­rat­ing road net­work an­nu­ally.

The to­tal length of public road main­tained by the coun­cil stands at 3,456 miles and has grown by 20.6 miles over the last year, with new in­fra­struc­ture created in con­nec­tion with the AWPR.

The re­port ex­plains that the “gross re­place­ment cost” of coun­cil car­riage­ways has been cal­cu­lated as £4.387 bil­lion.

It adds: “There is a con­sid­er­able length of the net­work that re­quires fur­ther work to bring it back into a good condition.

“The lat­est es­ti­mate of this main­te­nance back­log was in ex­cess of £99m.”

Roads in the north-east have al­ready suf­fered due to un­prece­dented flood­ing and the au­thor­ity has been warned there is a lack of funds to pro­tect them against even a “rel­a­tively mild win­ter”.

The re­port also re­vealed the coun­cil has forked out £78.4m over the last seven years on planned road main­te­nance.

Pre­vi­ously, north-east MSP Mike Rum­bles ac­cused the SNP of “pa­per­ing over cracks” on roads across Scot­land, as the cost of pro­tect­ing the vi­tal links be­tween com­mu­ni­ties rose na­tion­wide.

And last night, fel­low North East MSP Peter Chap­man also placed the blame in the hands of Nicola Stur­geon’s gov­ern­ment.

He said: “Aberdeen­shire has had its core bud­get cut by the SNP for eight years in a row.

“To main­tain more than 3,500 miles of roads and streets, there sim­ply isn’t enough money from Holy­rood.

“And you need well-main­tained roads to do busi­ness and to raise money.”

Mean­while Neil Greig, of road safety char­ity IAM Road­S­mart, said ac­tion needed to be taken to avoid a “feast or famine” ap­proach to tack­ling road de­fects.

He said: “Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil’s own fig­ures graph­i­cally show the scale of the prob­lem they face – which is also partly of their own mak­ing.

“By un­der-spend­ing on roads they have sim­ply stored up trou­ble for the fu­ture and made it even more dif­fi­cult to at­tack the huge back­log that just gets big­ger ev­ery day.

“IAM Road­S­mart sup­port long-term guar­an­tees of fund­ing for lo­cal coun­cils to help them plan to elim­i­nate their main­te­nance back­logs.

“The re­sources to do this can eas­ily be found from the mil­lions of pounds in taxes paid by Scot­tish driv­ers on fuel on road tax.

“With long-term guar­an­tees in place we can move away from the in­ef­fi­cient ‘feast or famine’ ap­proach to road de­fects, such as pot­holes, that have blighted the north-east’s roads for decades.”

Across Aberdeen­shire, the bud­get to cover car­riage­ways, foot­ways, street light­ing, bridges, struc­tures and traf­fic sig­nals is to rise dra­mat­i­cally.

The cost to re­place the en­tire road net­work is es­ti­mated to be £4bn.

In com­par­i­son, the to­tal value of Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil’s other phys­i­cal

“Aberdeen­shire Coun­cil’s own fig­ures graph­i­cally show the scale of the prob­lem they face”

as­sets, such as prop­erty and her­itage build­ings, comes to £1.6m.

The cost of main­tain­ing the vast road net­work stands at £14,888,000, but that is poised to rise to £25m for 2020-21.

Mr Chap­man added: “As we have seen in re­cent spells of bad weather, our roads and bridges can be a mas­sive drain on the public purse.

“The SNP has cut our lo­cal gov­ern­ment fund­ing to the level where ad­e­quate spend­ing isn’t pos­si­ble.”

Mean­while a spokesman for Finance Sec­re­tary Derek Mackay claimed the gov­ern­ment had been “de­liv­er­ing” for the north-east’s road net­work, while bat­tling with their own fi­nan­cial strug­gles.

He said: “The Tories should apol­o­gise to the peo­ple of the north-east for a decade of aus­ter­ity and for the on­go­ing sham­bles of Brexit which threat­ens so many jobs in the area and across the coun­try.

“The real­ity is that it is the SNP Gov­ern­ment has been de­liv­er­ing for the north-east – de­spite hav­ing our own bud­get cut by the Tories at West­min­ster.

“We have funded ma­jor projects like the £745m AWPR, which the Tories failed to take for­ward.

“We are also spend­ing £125m as part of the Aberdeen City Re­gion Deal, plus an ad­di­tional £254m for key in­fra­struc­ture.”

Pol­hol­lick foot­bridge at Bridge of Cairn, Bal­later

North East MSP Peter Chap­man

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