Fix roads first before building new ones, say Scots

Picture: Bill Henry
Picture: Bill Henry
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by ALASTAIR DALTON

It came as the group launched a Fix It First campaign to persuade ministers to spend more money on potholes ahead of its multi-billion road building programme.

The body said 84 per cent of those taking part in the poll thought the Scottish Government “should give priority to fixing the existing road network before building new roads”. Only 7 per cent of the 1,100 people questioned disagreed.

Transform Scotland said public spending watchdog Audit Scotland had put the cost of repairing the country’s roads at some £2.25 billion – a quarter of the £9bn planned spending on new road schemes. These include dualling the A9 between Perth and Inverness and the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness at a cost of £3bn each.

Also highlighted were the £1.4bn Queensferry Crossing over the Forth, the £745 million Aberdeen western peripheral route and £588m to upgrade the A8/M8, M73 and M74.

It was reported that councils had also paid £1.2 million to compensate drivers for pothole damage in 2011-12 and that ministers had increased their roads budget by 40 per cent over the last five years, but there had been an “ongoing failure” to tackle the road maintenance backlog.

Chairman Phil Matthews said: “This survey clearly demonstrates the vast majority of the Scottish public want the Scottish Government to prioritise repairing and maintaining our existing roads over building new ones.

“Scotland’s existing roads, cycle paths and pavements are in an increasingly poor state of repair. Markings are deteriorating, pavements are damaged, and potholes are all too common, slowing down and diverting journeys, contributing to pedestrian, cyclist and motorist accidents, and resulting in expensive injuries and repair costs for travellers.

“The current financial settlement has led to Scottish local authorities not having the funds available to repair and maintain roads. It’s time the Scottish Government stepped in to fund these repairs and maintenance. There is obviously no shortage of money in the Scottish Government’s road infrastructure budget. The problem is it’s all directed to build new roads instead of repairing and maintaining the ones we’ve already got.”

Labour infrastructure spokesman James Kelly said: “This is an emphatic message from motorists tired of the poor roads we see in most parts of the country with little prospect of them being repaired. The deep cuts to local government have resulted in many local [non-trunk] roads being neglected.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have used our devolved powers over transport infrastructure wisely, and are committed to the largest transport investment programme that Scotland has ever seen despite relentless Westminster budget cuts.

“We recognise that maintaining the condition of our strategic road network is vital to the economy of Scotland. Through Transport Scotland we have invested around £2.6bn since 2007 to ensure the roads for which we are responsible are safe, efficient, well managed and facilitate the effective movement of people, goods and services.”