THE LATEST wintry weather is a stark reminder of the challenges we face in keeping local roads to a good standard of repair.
Ask any Council Leader about this subject and I would confidently bet that most will tell you that potholed roads is the top cause of the complaints they get from the public.
And I do sympathise – I am a driver after all!…
I can’t deny I get as irked as anyone else does after driving over one – although it is also true that nobody ever notices driving over roads where no bumps occur, for obvious reasons.
To try and address the pothole problem we’ve announced a new £6.2 million investment programme in Oldham’s roads this week.
This new money is funding a 12-month programme of works to get more streets into shape with a high-quality and durable surface that supports residents, motorists and business and keeps the borough moving.
This is really positive news, but we’ve also got to be realistic about the scale of the problem.
Road surfacing is a constant ongoing battle and the significant funding cuts from Government leave us with far less to spend on it than we would ideally put in.
In recent years we’ve also had some very harsh winters and wet summers which have had a significant impact on the 856 kilometres of roads we maintain.
This – and increased traffic levels – means many road surfaces are in need of repair or resurfacing. That £6.2 million commitment means specialist teams are out on the roads as you read this right now and getting on with that job.
There’s two key issues at play when it comes to road surfacing.
Firstly, there just isn’t enough Government funding to help local authorities like ourselves get on top of the problem. Last year a survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance estimated that councils are fixing 1.75 million potholes a year, which is one every 19 seconds, and sounds impressive. But the scale of the issue is such that the Local Government Association believes there is an astronomical national funding gap of £12 billion to be plugged and it would still take more than a decade – even with all that money provided – just to catch up with the backlog.
Although we’re not unique in terms of the funding challenges we face, a second issue for Oldham lies in the topographical nature of where we live.
Snow and ice causes the vast majority of pothole cracks and are much more likely to be on higher ground. That’s because the higher you are, the colder it tends to be, which explains why the Saddleworth Moors always appear to be hit first. Height is also crucial because just a small change in temperature can mean the difference between rain and snow (which melts at 0 degrees C or above) and the Highways team tell me that 99 per cent of our borough lies at least at a height of 100 metres above sea level.
We know it is vital that we continue to invest in our key infrastructure, like the road network.
In addition to this new investment we’re continuing to give overall priority to our main roads (A and B roads). These are our Priority Routes because the majority of the public use them each day – and you can help us to keep them well maintained.
We operate a 24 Hour Repair Promise on these roads (you may have noticed the road signs indicating this) so, if you see a defect, then please report it to us so we can take action immediately. Find out more here.
Obviously, we cannot go out driving every stretch of our roads checking for defects like this every day, so we rely on your help as our ‘eyes and ears’ by reporting problems as they arise.
Finally, I want to stress that this £6.2million investment is new money and it is in addition to the regular and scheduled work that our Highways Team are already carrying out, such as other reactive pothole repairs.
You can find out more about which roads will be improved in the first three months of this programme here.
Please do #yourbit and report any pothole problems to us online.