The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands)

More than 10,000 pot­holes blight lo­cal roads as bud­get cuts bite hard

- Aberdeenshire · Scotland · Moray · Plymouth Argyle F.C. · Outer Hebrides · Orkney Islands · Shetland Islands Council

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”

 ??  ?? Coun­cils across the north and north-east re­port a back­log of re­pairs to pot­holes
Coun­cils across the north and north-east re­port a back­log of re­pairs to pot­holes

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