Learn to live with potholes, drivers told as repairs backlog soars

MOTORISTS have been warned they need to learn to live with potholes as it emerged that the repairs backlog for Scotland's roads has rocketed by £200 million and may top £2.6 billion.

Council chiefs said the total cost of bringing the country's roads up to scratch had gone up from 2.25bn to 2.44bn following an assessment of the impact of the 2009-10 winter. However, it is thought extreme conditions at the turn of this year will push up the total by at least as much again to more than 2.6bn.

The increase comes from a 12 cent rise in the bill for non-trunk roads, from 1.54bn to 1.73bn.

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The grim news came as roads officials met last week as part of a national review of the problem ordered by the Scottish Government.

They are considering calls from public spending watchdog Audit Scotland to give priority to key routes and for councils to spend money more effectively by pooling resources and working more closely with the private sector.

The Audit Scotland report, published in February, found that more than a third of the country's roads were below acceptable standard. This includes 42 per cent of the most minor roads, 25 per cent of single-carriageway trunk roads and 22 per cent of motorways.

The report said nearly one tenth of the non-trunk road network needed urgent work within a year.

The repairs backlog has already soared from 1bn in the watchdog's survey seven years ago.

The Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland, which produced the updated backlog figures, said they were based on its latest annual roads condition survey last summer.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the Royal Automobile Club Foundation, said: "There is no doubt the latest bad winter will have made the backlog bigger.

"If there is not more money for road maintenance, we will have to face up to the prospect that we cannot keep up historical standards."

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He added: "If you defer maintenance today because budgets are tight, in the future you will have to find a lot more money or accept a declining standard of maintenance."

The Automobile Association said a members' poll indicated the rising repair backlog would accelerate further because of this year's big freeze.

Head of roads policy Paul Watters said: "We are expecting the impact of last winter to be even worse for Scotland's roads than the previous one.

"Our AA Populus panel members in Scotland have reported a bigger deterioration in road conditions than anywhere else in the UK."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency said: "These figures relate to roads for which local government is responsible. We recognise the enormous importance of maintaining Scotland's road network in the face of unprecedented Westminster cuts to public spending."