Scotland's £2.25bn pothole bill 17 | 02 | 2011

    SCOTLAND'S POTHOLED roads will cost the country at least £2.25 BILLION to repair, according to public spending watchdogs; and so horrified are they at the way the repair backlog has been handled that Audit Scotland has called for a major shake-up.

    Not only has Audit Scotland labelled more than one-third of the network as below "acceptable" standards, but it has also called for key routes to be given priority for spending.

    There is no doubt that anyone who has travelled in a car in Scotland over the past couple of years will have notice the significant deterioration of the standard of our roads. Even on our motorway system, potholes which threaten to cause tyre damage have appeared.

    The repercussions of a high-speed puncture caused by hitting a hidden deep pothole — disguised by lying water after a heavy shower — on a motorway will send nothing but send shivers down your spine.

    An while the Audit Scotland report highlighted almost one-tenth of non-trunk roads are in the most urgent repair category, requiring work within a year, it also warned ministers the worsening state of roads was being accompanied by increasing public dissatisfaction.

    We at Scotcars believe something must be done: and it must be done now. It's a view which is shared by Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Jackson Carlaw.

    "We have long passed the point where Scotland's road network can be saved by a little bit of potholing," he said. "The national road network needs urgent attention, and we must be willing to consider radical solutions.

    "I have spoken to countless motorists from all across Scotland whose cars have been damaged by poorly maintained and, frankly, in some cases, downright dangerous roads.

    "We didn't need this report to affirm this basic truth, but perhaps this report will wake up the Scottish Government."

    It will come as absolutely no surprise that the Audit Scotland report said roads had worsened since its last report in 2004, with only 63% now in an acceptable condition. And only 78% of motorways and other trunk roads, which are run by the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency, were deemed to be in an acceptable state last year, compared with 84% in 2006. Single-carriageway A roads deteriorated the most, down nine points to 75%

    The report also highlighted 66% of other roads, which are run by councils, were "acceptable" last year, down from 70% in 2005.

    One of the most frightening statistic though is that just over half — 58% — of the most minor roads in Scotland were deemed "acceptable".

    And don't juts sit there and blame it on this winter's big freeze: that's had little effect. According to Audit Scotland, the winter's severe weather had mainly damaged roads in an already poor condition so it had actually had a minimal effect on the overall results.

    The report revealed Scotland's road maintenance backlog had increased by £1bn to £2.25bn since its last report — £713m for trunk roads and £1.54bn for council-run roads. The latter figure, for 2009, is likely to rise even higher next month when local roads chiefs update the total based on the latest road condition survey.

    "Members of the public are increasingly dissatisfied with the condition of our roads," Auditor General for Scotland Robert Black, who is responsible for auditing Transport Scotland, said.

    "The pattern of spending and scale of backlog means the value of these public assets is not being sustained. But by deferring essential expenditure on infrastructure, public bodies are storing up problems for the future and passing a greater burden on to generations to come."

    John Baillie, chairman of the Accounts Commission for Scotland, which audits councils, said: "It is very disappointing to see the limited progress made to improve road maintenance since we last reported on this.

    "A third of councils still need to develop road asset management plans, a fundamental requirement of good management. Far better information is needed on costs and performance. We recognise that some councils are working together to be more efficient, and we welcome these initiatives. However, overall, councils could be doing much more to get better value from the limited funding they have available."

    So; should we expect instant action from the Scottish Government? Well don't get your hopes up. Transport Scotland merely said it would "fully consider" the report's findings.

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    Jim McGill


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