UTILITY firms are facing an estimated £300,000 repair bill for cracks, missing manhole covers and faulty fire hydrants across Edinburgh.
Scottish Water and other companies must tackle 605 reported faults which includes small Toby covers and access points on roads and pavements.
Road campaigners say the backlog is due to a lack of local government power to force utilities to tackle the problem.
Fines for failing to repair access points in some cases total just hundreds of pounds and are largely ignored by major firms, according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
The conservative estimate of £300,000 has been made on the basis that a Toby cover costs around £500 to replace. Larger manhole covers, which require traffic diversions in some cases, costs thousands of pounds each to replace, which means the total is likely to be far higher.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said current legislation is inadequate and that road bosses can only issue insignificant fines at present.
She said she will lobby Elspeth King, who takes up the post of Scottish road works commissioner next month, for new powers to crack down on firms who fail to address repairs.
She said: “The safety of road users in the city is extremely important and we continue to work closely with utility companies to make sure they play their part in keeping Edinburgh roads and pavements in good condition.
“There is an issue here around defective apparatus, however the current legislation does not permit councils to impose an inspection fee on utility companies unless a third party has reported the problem.
“Even then, the penalty is a one-off and so insignificant that it is hardly prohibitive at all. This is an issue I’ll be raising with the new roads commissioner at the earliest opportunity to see if we can bring about a change to the legislation.”
Scottish Water is responsible for the bulk of the repairs – recorded as 467 as of this month – although the publicly-owned firm said the situation was an improvement on two years ago, when the figure was nearly 2000 across Edinburgh.
At the time, Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue chiefs highlighted the fact that 15 of these were fire hydrants which crews may have to depend on.
Neil Greig, director of policy at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, backed the call for new powers.
He said: “Most Edinburgh drivers will be shocked to learn Scottish Water hasn’t been able to get a handle on this problem.
“Very few fines have been issued and in many cases they are far less than the cost of repairing a single fault. Until the fines really hurt, they will just ignore them.”
Raymond Davidson, secretary of Edinburgh Taxi Association, said: “Some of the cracks and craters around these utility points have to be seen to be believed.
“There are a number on George IV Bridge, a horrendous one on Gorgie Road into Balgreen Road – it’s like a crater.
“The worst must be on Albany Street, which is the main diversion because of the tram works on York Place.
“You actually have to veer to avoid it because you wouldn’t come out if you hit it.
“Our drivers have to put the cabs in needing front end repairs, new back suspension, rear springs and shock absorbers replaced. It’s a big cost and I’d imagine regular members of the public get the same.”
A spokesman for Scottish Water said it was committed to clearing the backlog.
He said: “We have been working hard to drive down the number of faulty manhole covers in Edinburgh and carry out repairs. While the number has been significantly reduced, we recognise the inconvenience that can be caused and will continue to deal with reports of faulty manholes and repairs as quickly as possible.”