'˜Impossible' to fix Scottish roads due to cuts, say transport experts

Independent transport experts have warned that funding cuts mean it is 'not possible' to fix Scotland's potholed and damaged roads.
A pothole in Craiglockhart. Picture: Ian Georgeson.A pothole in Craiglockhart. Picture: Ian Georgeson.
A pothole in Craiglockhart. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

Analysis provided by a strategic body set up to improve transport networks has also estimated the cost of meeting the backlog of repairs to Scotland’s roads comes to £1.67 billion.

The funding challenges facing the roads system was revealed in information provided by the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) to SPICe, the Scottish Parliament’s independent information centre.

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SCOTS comprises transport experts from all 32 Scottish local authorities and the seven regional transport partnerships. It specialises in delivering and maintaining transport systems.

Last night Scottish Labour said the figures showed the scale of the SNP administration’s cuts to council budgets and called for local authorities to be funded properly.

At the behest of Labour, SCOTS was asked by SPICe if it was possible to calculate how long it would take to fix all of Scotland’s roads that require maintenance.

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SCOTS replied: “At current (decreasing) levels of funding it is simply not possible to ‘fix’ all of Scotland’s roads that need maintenance. Most Roads Authorities have budgets which are lower than that required to maintain roads at the current state – which includes roads which are in need of maintenance.

“It is possible to calculate what is termed the headline backlog figure – the cost to remove all significant defects (currently existing) – the 2017 calculation assesses the headline backlog figure at £1,671,425,000.”

Last night Labour’s Transport spokesman Neil Bibby said: “Many motorists are already frustrated at the state of Scotland’s roads but they will be absolutely stunned to learn that transport experts have deemed it simply impossible to repair all of the country’s roads at current funding levels. 

“Scotland’s roads already require £1.6bn worth of works – and with massive funding cuts that figure will only get worse. The SNP must stop cutting council budgets and properly fund local authorities so that they can invest effectively in repairing our roads. Further cuts will only make matters worse.”

The financial challenges involved in maintaining roads came to light after it emerged that Scotland’s highways have the highest number of potholes in the UK.

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Research compiled by the insurance firm Confused.com suggested that the combined depth of the 154,310 potholes reported to Scottish councils last year would come to four miles.

The number of potholes reported in Scotland was around 16,000 more than the next worse hit area – the south-west of England.  

The Scottish Government’s critics have condemned ministers for cutting local authority budgets. An analysis by the Accounts Commission forecast councils will face a black hole of £500 million in less than two years time unless they make more cuts.

The Commission forecast the gap between the amount local government spends and its income could grow from £87m in 2016-17 to an estimated £367m in the current financial year, before rising again to £553m in 2018-19.

More than a third of Scotland’s 32 local authorities will face a funding gap that is greater than the amount of cash they have in reserves, its report said, despite managing their funds well in the face of cuts by the Scottish Government.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Humza Yousaf said: “The SNP government is investing massively in transport infrastructure like dualling the A9, delivering the Aberdeen bypass and building the new Queensferry Crossing – all projects which Labourfailed to take forward when they were in office.”

A Scottish Government spokesman added: “The local road network is the responsibility of local authorities and it is up to them to allocate resources based on local priorities. However, we are working with local government to help to improve the condition of all roads, including supporting them to form regional partnerships to share resources and better manage their road networks.”