The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)
More than 10,000 potholes blight local roads as budget cuts bite hard
Safety fears have been raised after local roads authorities revealed there are 10,000 potholes scattered across the north and north-east.
The huge backlog of repairs to the defects has emerged before the annual deterioration of local roads during the winter months.
Despite fixing almost 5,000 of the craters since the start of the year, Aberdeenshire Council told The P&J there are currently 8,685 potholes on its roads.
The number was higher than other areas, though the authority put it down to its efficient reporting system and the length of its 3,400-mile road network.
Highland Council, the only authority in Scotland that manages more local roads than Aberdeenshire, identified 2,076 repairs in the first half of the year, and had made 762.
It said government funding was insufficient to enable it to do all the work it would wish to.
Aberdeen City has 233 outstanding jobs to carry out on its roads, while Moray has 105 and Argyll and Bute 358.
RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said potholes were “the bane of drivers’ lives”.
“They cause expensive damage to vehicles and present a very serious road safety danger, particularly to those on two wheels,” he said.
“We urge all road users to report any they spot.”
Aberdeenshire Council’s deputy leader Peter Argyle said the authority had become “very efficient” at identifying and tackling high priority potholes, despite diminishing budgets.
“As with everything, we have a limited budget, so we can’t do everything we want to do, so what we do is have a very clear system of prioritisation when it comes to potholes or defects in the road,” he said. “If a pothole appears on a major road in a place that is going to cause danger to life and limb then that is given absolute priority and is repaired within hours.”
The council’s viceconvener Allan Henderson said official indicators were “going in the wrong direction” in terms of problems on local roads, with the amount required for general road repairs rising from about £176 million to nearer £195m.
He said: “The government will say that they give councils enough funding to be able to have fair amounts put aside for all the work they need to do, including roads.
“But when we have the full call of education and knowing that we’ve to really get that right, it makes it very difficult.”
Potholes appear to be far less of an issue on the islands, with Western Isles Council saying it had “no reported pothole repairs outstanding at present”.
Shetland Islands Council (SIC) does not even record pothole numbers – with the climate, soil conditions and low traffic volumes ensuring fewer issues – but estimates that it repairs 10 to 20 a year.
In Orkney, 62 potholes were reported by the public in 2019 and 211 found by inspectors.
Councils may differ in the way they calculate just how many potholes there are on the road networks for which they are responsible. There is one thing on which they would all have to agree – the number is much, much too high.
Underfunded local authorities simply do not have the resources to keep pace with the speed at which problems develop.
Worse, the longer this goes on, the worse it will get as small defects all too quickly become well-nigh impassable craters.
Now, as freezing temperatures return, it is motorists who will be resigning themselves to the crumbling tar.
The same motorists who have little option but to drive given the shortage of reliable public transport options, who nonetheless pay handsomely for the “privilege” of navigating substandard surfaces and on top of that face seeing their cars badly damaged as a result.
It is to be applauded that more efficient and reliable repair methods are being examined. All the more so if those techniques could help in any way deal with the environmental scourge of throwaway plastic waste.
When Aberdeenshire alone though estimates its repair backlog to be nearing £100 million, there are more fundamental question to be addressed. Without proper investment our roads will end up paved only with good intentions – and we know where they will lead us then.
“Without proper investment our roads will end up paved only with good intentions”