Edinburgh's potholes budget could be cut to pay for North Bridge refurbishment
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Council officials want to cut the city's potholes budget to help pay for yet another increase in the cost of the structural repairs to North Bridge.
The long-running North Bridge refurbishment project is now forecast to cost another £24 million on top of the £62m budget already approved for the work. And a report to councillors proposes funding the additional spending by taking £12m from the road maintenance capital budget and borrowing the other £12m. But transport convener Scott Arthur said Edinburgh's roads and pavements had never been in a worse condition and warned any cut to the maintenance budget would see the deterioration spiral.
Cllr Arthur recently said an extra £8 million needed to be invested in repairs just to stop the state of the city’s road getting any worse and revealed plans to buy a machine known as the “pothole killer” to mend potholes faster and at less cost. Edinburgh council received 1,100 claims for compensation for pothole damage to vehicles over the last three years and paid out a total of just over £26,000. And one councillor described how up to a dozen vehicles ended up with burst tyres in one weekend as a result of potholes on a stretch of road in Balerno.
A report to next week's council finance committee says the North Bridge refurbishment project is “experiencing significant cost pressures due to construction market volatility and increases to the scope of the works”. And it continues: “Forecast costs have increased by £24m compared with the previous budget provision. It is proposed that £12m of this pressure is funded from the carriageway and footways budget over an eight-year period and for the remaining £12m funded from additional borrowing.”
Cllr Arthur made clear he was not happy with the officials’ recommendations, although he blamed the Scottish Government for the spending squeeze facing the council. He said: “I’ve been clear since I became transport convener that the maintenance of roads and footpaths in Edinburgh is underfunded, and that I am working with my Labour colleagues to resolve this in partnership with other political groups. It’s concerning, therefore, to learn that Scottish Government cutbacks may mean that roads and footpath maintenance may actually be reduced further.
“Let me be clear, it’s my view that Edinburgh’s roads and footpaths have never been in a worse condition than they are now and that cutting this budget will increase the rate of decline exponentially. I am calling on all of Edinburgh’s MSPs to oppose the cuts to Edinburgh’s budget.”
North Bridge has not had a major refurbishment since 1933 when the existing concrete deck was built and additional steel work was built in to strengthen some sections supporting the deck. Once work began on the current project it became clear there was more to be done than originally envisaged, leading to cost increases and a longer timescale.
But the report says the condition of the bridge is “now largely known” and the project team is “now confident that the revised budget will not be exceeded”. A council spokeswoman said the timetable for completion of the work by June 2025 was not expected to slip.