EDINBURGH’S cracked and potholed roads were today branded “the worst they have ever been”.
As a series of new cracks appear following the freezing weather, and city councillors continue to be inundated with complaints, there are now fears the standard of our streets may even deter investment. One leading businessman told the Evening News that he would never consider relocating his firm to the Capital because of its “shocking” roads.
The city insists its road repair budget has doubled, with new treatments being rolled out to improve the standard of mending work.
But today, taxi drivers and business figures united to condemn the state of the Capital’s roads and demand action.
Veteran taxi driver Philip Capaldi – who has worked on Edinburgh’s roads for 30 years – said he was sick of making excuses to tourists for bumpy rides and branded the roads “horrendous”.
“They are the worst I have seen in my life, the worst they have ever been,” said the cabbie, who drives for Central Radio Taxis.
“If you can prove your car is damaged the council will pay for that rather than pay for repairs to the roads because it works out cheaper.
“Charlotte Square is like the surface of the moon. I defy anyone to drive around there and not meet a lot of craters.”
Central Taxis director Tony Kenmuir echoed this view, saying potholes were as “bad as they have ever been”.
And he said: “I’m not conscious of any improvement in the quality of the roads.
“I’m not even particularly conscious of any great amount of work being done around the city to the roads. It takes its toll on the taxi trade and increases our running costs – there’s no doubt about it.”
New figures released this week suggest the cost of Edinburgh’s pothole backlog is equal to the three worst-performing English councils.
The price tag for bringing every damaged road in the Capital up to scratch is estimated at £260 million – according to a leaked report seen by the News – and is roughly equivalent to the total bill for Leeds, Gloucester and Islington.
Transport leaders have issued a list of 50 resurfacing projects that will be tackled over the next 15 months and highlighted 41 works that have been completed since April.
But Ruth McKay, chairwoman of the Edinburgh branch of the Federation of Small Business, called on transport bosses to refocus investment from cycle lanes and public transport towards neglected roads in outlying parts of the city, claiming that they don’t receive the same attention as city centre areas popular with tourists.
Ms McKay said: “The standard of the roads in Edinburgh is of huge concern to businesses. I think there has to be a realisation that most small businesses will be based outside of the city centre and will be travelling in and around the city, and not focused on Princes Street and the centre.
“The difference for me, if I had to rely on public transport to go around and see clients, is that I would probably do one to two meetings a day. With a car, I can do five or six.” She added that repair costs from damage caused by poor road surfaces put an additional cost on businesses.
“For small businesses that are reliant on cars and vans, that is the key asset of your business. If you have to do more repair work to your car, that is costing you more. That is a concern as well.”
Edinburgh-born businessman Hamish Manson, 59, runs an aeroplane leasing firm near Gatwick Airport, and said he would never consider moving his firm to the Capital because of the standard of the roads.
“I probably notice it more than some residents, because I don’t experience the gradual deterioration,” he said.
“From what I can make out, it [effects] the majority of the primary routes. It’s not just a question of potholes – the roads need to be skimmed and resurfaced.
“What troubles me is the likely impact that this will have not just on Edinburgh’s tourism, but business investment. If you’re inviting business leaders to come over and invest, and they’re driven in from the airport, they must be wondering what the hell is going on.
“Because my business is quite mobile, I’d been giving some consideration to moving back to Scotland to work from there, but I’ve just been so terribly shocked by what I’ve seen.
“If I was looking to relocate a large company from London to Edinburgh, I would have second thoughts because the situation has become so bad.”
Former councillor Moyra Forrest, who represented the Sciennes ward between 1990 and 2003, said progress on repairing roads had slumped since she left the council.
“It’s certainly very bad at the moment,” she said, highlighting potholes at Elm Row and George IV Bridge.
“These are areas where councillors and council staff should be walking and should be noticing. They are not new potholes.
“One’s outside the G&V hotel on George IV Bridge, another is outside the Thistle Hotel on Leith Walk. What sort of impression of the city does that give?”
Councillor Joanna Mowat – transport spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Conservatives – added: “The level of complaints remains pretty constant.
“We know our roads are poorly maintained, but has it improved in the last eight years? No, it has got worse.”
Transport leader Lesley Hinds defended spending on the carriageways, insisting the city had thrust roads and pavements centre stage by doubling its budget.
“We are always looking for additional resources to put into the roads budget, but obviously that has to be balanced with demands from schools, care homes and other capital investment,” she said.
“The council has prioritised roads and pavements in terms of doubling its budget, and using whatever resources it can to improve roads and pavements.
“We’ve also looked at different mechanisms to go and repair a road and not have to go back again later.
“Roads that are not as heavily used will benefit from a new technique that costs less money, but will still be brought up to a functional standard.”
‘Capital’s streets are a bombsite’
Castello Coffee @CastelloCoffee: South Charlotte Street is a bombsite.
Gordon McIntosh @gogsmcintosh: Try the whole length of Moredunvale Road. It was closed last year for gas works . . . looks like the whole road exploded!
Murrean @Murrean02: The northern side of Frederick Street is a disgrace, it is like driving over a ploughed field
Christine Carr @ChristineCarr: On Whitehouse Loan between Strathearn Road and Bruntsfield Crescent, hold on as you’ll hit your head bumping up in vehicles
Motivation @Motivationprobs: One pothole is now over two-and-a-half years old. It features on some maps as place of historic disinterest.
Scott Drever @DREVER1: They are shocking. My car is £500 a year road tax and I am constantly repairing the car because of potholes.