Jerry Stewart: Why can’t we fix roads?

Ian Georgeson'07921 567360'Get it sorted- Stenhouse Road'pothole

Ian Georgeson'07921 567360'Get it sorted- Stenhouse Road'pothole

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In the past financial year, councils in the UK have paid out a grand total of £2.5 million in compensation to motorists because of pothole damage.

At Eagle Couriers, we spend £24,000 a year repairing damage to our vehicles caused directly by poor road surfaces in Edinburgh.

Broken down, that’s £300 a year per van to replace tyres, springs and shock absorbers – all down to poor maintenance on our Edinburgh roads.

Notably deteriorating areas include West Port, West Approach Road and Charlotte Square in central Edinburgh. With many areas littered with potholes and loose, rutted surfaces, road maintenance across the city
is severely neglected and under-funded.

Less than ten per cent of the annual road tax bill in the whole of the UK is spent on road repairs. With investment going elsewhere, we’re heading for a crash.

Repairs that are actually carried out are often substandard – short-term fixes that don’t go the distance. Often, potholes are being filled poorly. All that seems to be done is a bag of tarmac with some resin is poured into the hole, some so-called levelling tool skims over it and there we have it. We’re left with something resembling a patchwork quilt the height of a Munro.

Heading into winter, facing heavy rain, snowstorms and icy conditions, we’ll be back to square one. Residents in our capital city annually contribute £210m in council tax to improve their localities yet our roads remain in dire need of repair. Roads not resurfaced to a sufficiently high standard create costly damage to vehicles while also compromising our safety every time we travel.

We’re on track with a cosmopolitan new tram system, but why are the most basic improvements on our most common travel mechanism being overlooked?

In Edinburgh, we’ve inadvertently spent £1 billion on the trams project – more than the cost of developing the space rocket used in the moon landing. Yet, pedestrians and motorists can’t travel down Great Junction Street, for example, without falling foul of an unsightly pothole.

A total of 32,600 compensation claims was made across the UK last year for pothole related damage. Up 79 per cent on the previous year, clearly, a gap needs to be filled.

Road rejuvenation seems to be going in reverse, hindering rather than helping road users. Coming into a cold winter, with increasingly difficult driving conditions added to poor quality of roads, it seems as though it is up to us to drive with caution, stay alert and report faults where possible to bridge the gaps – and put the onus on our local councils to invest in vital road improvements.

• Jerry Stewart is director of Eagle Couriers