27 JULY 2009

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Article from BTNews 27 JULY 2009

COMMENT: Potholes are the bane of the motorist

Did you know that there is one pothole for every 120 yards of British road, that just under one million potholes were filled by local councils last year, and that it costs on average £65 to deal with each one?

This and other most interesting facts are revealed in the very comprehensive 14th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey backed by the Asphalt Industry Alliance. www.asphaltuk.org/alarm.asp

The survey, which collects information from local authority highways departments across England and Wales, also reports that the number of potholes in England has increased by 32% over the previous year, without accounting for the effects of the extreme weather conditions in February.  On top of this, highways departments have to cope with the intrusion of nearly two million deep trenches into roads for utility and other service provision works, which reduce the lifespan of the road.

Add to that the speed restriction humps that have proliferated over recent years and you just wonder how the modern car holds together.  You don’t see many Ford Anglia’s around these days.  They must have rattled to pieces.  And have you tried to follow a cautious driver over the bumps?  How many accidents are caused by a lack of patience?

I digress.  Such are the frustrations of motoring.  Canada has much more severe weather than the UK and any visitor will tell you that for the most part the road surfaces are excellent.  One problem we do have this side of the Atlantic is that in any typical winter there might be three, even four spells of under zero conditions.  It is water getting into cracks, freezing and then expanding that causes the surface to break.  In Canada it is just one long spell of really cold weather.

Last week the Highways Agency announced a scheme to add an extra lane to the M25 around north London from junction 16 (M40) to junction 30 (QE2 bridge approach) in time for the 2012 Olympics, except (for some strange reason) J23 (A1M) to the M11, which effectively connects Stansted to Stratford.  For this stretch the hard shoulder is to be reinforced and brought into use when necessary.  The hard shoulder experiment in the Birmingham area has proved a success it seems, and the concept will be extended.

Money has been found for what is a vital road, one of the most important in the whole country.  No doubt the minister of the day will cut a ribbon and try to gain praise for a project that was nothing to do with him.  But that is politics.

Filling in potholes does not carry any glory but is just as vital.  And it is not just a question of filling in potholes, hotchpotch.  Roads need to be re-surfaced properly.

According to the website www.potholes.co.uk (yes there is one) 462 people claimed for pothole damage against Buckinghamshire County Council, the authority paying out just on seven, totalling £1,150.

Times are tight but money is being found for vital missions.  The shortfall is put at around £750m for the councils of England and Wales to put things right, not a huge sum by modern standards.

The roads and byways of the United Kingdom are the country’s basic infrastructure.  If things are not taken in hand we will finish up as a country linked by farm tracks, not 21st century highways.  The consequences of not finding the money are severe.  Or is this lack of interest a secret government plan to assist Land Rover?  If things deteriorate much further, and we have a really bad winter, they might well become the only vehicles to get around.  That would be the wrong route to take.


Malcolm Ginsberg

Editor in Chief

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