Edinburgh doubles repair squads for snow-hit roads

Pothole on Blackford Avenue. Picture:' Neil Hanna
Pothole on Blackford Avenue. Picture:' Neil Hanna
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EXTRA squads of workmen have been dispatched across the Capital to carry out urgent repairs on roads ravaged by the extreme winter weather.

The number of teams deployed on emergency maintenance of key routes has been more than doubled by the council to cope with the cracks and potholes left by the snow and ice.

Potholes at  Bruntsfield Place in Edinburgh

Potholes at Bruntsfield Place in Edinburgh

All roads staff were diverted to road-clearing operations last week after Edinburgh was hit by the worst snowfall for years.

And as soon as that task was completed, the workers were transferred to the urgent repair of road surfaces.

For the past few days, nine squads have been repairing potholes and other road defects instead of the usual four and a further team normally engaged on bigger projects has also been diverted to help with the emergency work.

Lothian Road and Fountainbridge were said to be among the hotspots worst affected by the freezing weather.

Transport convener Lesley Macinnes said: “Winter weather poses a significant challenge to road maintenance. Now our services are returning to normal, we’re making every effort to address issues on the network.”

Neil Greig, of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said the snow had hidden an already growing problem for a couple of days and it had come back even worse.

“The combination of freezing weather, salt and road clearing has left a bigger problem than before. New potholes have appeared and old potholes have got even bigger.”

He called for a review of the government’s “Bellwin” scheme which gives councils extra cash for weather emergencies so it can be extended to road repairs. He said: “It has been used to clear the snow, which has revealed how bad the roads are. Now let’s use it to help with the potholes.”

But he said emergency repairs would only last so long. “The only long-term solution is long-term funding for proper reinstatement.”

Lothian Conservative MSP Gordon Lindhurst criticised the Scottish Government for failing to promise the help councils need to repair the roads after the onslaught of the snow.

He said: “We’ve had the worst winter weather for eight years and councils will be struggling to deal with the fall-out from that in terms of road repairs.

“They need a firm commitment of help from the Scottish Government. We’re not a country like Norway or Canada where there is a regular snowfall and you expect the government, local and national, to have the infrastructure to deal with that. Everyone recognises this is an irregular occurrence and we don’t expect government to prepare for it as if it’s going to happen every year.

“But when it does happen, it’s for the Scottish Government to come up with the goods and commit to help with what is a fairly severe event.”

Edinburgh Tory transport spokesman Nick Cook said today’s National Pothole Day was a timely reminder of how much needed done to improve the “terrible” condition of the city’s roads. He said: “If the council is to command the trust of local residents, a sustained, demonstrable period of road quality improvement is needed.”

Green transport spokesman Chas Booth said the most important long-term priority was reducing the pressure on roads by getting heavy trucks out of the city centre, cracking down on pavement parking and helping more people to choose cycling and walking over car-use. “Unless we tackle the root cause of the pothole problem, we’ll simply be pouring council money into a hole in the ground,” he said.

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was up to individual councils to manage their own budgets and allocate resources on the basis of local needs. “This includes funding for local roads maintenance.”

He added: “The Scottish Government is open to dialogue with local authorities and COSLA on the costs associated with the severe weather.”