Road crisis laid bare – repairs to cost nearly £100m
● Road safety charity slates ‘feast or famine’ approach
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