Fears over pothole repairs to Scotland’s roads due to bitumen supply shortage

Pothole repairs and road resurfacing could be hit by a shortage of bitumen triggered by the war in Ukraine, experts have told The Scotsman.

Transport Scotland said the problem appeared to have been caused by market volatility due to the conflict and subsequent oil price rises, with bitumen being rationed by suppliers.

BEAR Scotland, which maintains motorways and other major routes across most of the country, said: “We are aware of the ongoing bitumen shortages across the UK, however it hasn’t yet impacted our surfacing operations.

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"Should a bitumen shortage be experienced, keeping the trunk roads we are responsible for in a safe and serviceable condition will remain our priority.

Resurfacing work could be hit by bitumen supply problems. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

"However, it isn’t possible to predict exactly just when the shortages will have an impact.”

Amey which maintains major routes in Glasgow and south west Scotland, said: “We are conscious of pressures on the wider global supply chain and are speaking with our suppliers and Transport Scotland to provide advance notice of any potential problems.”

Edinburgh and Glasgow are among councils yet to be affected, but Highland Council said: “Given the current international issues, supplies of bitumen may be difficult to source.

“We are currently identifying the scale of any issue and also what mitigation measures may need to be implemented.”

A Transport Scotland spokesperson said: “Our contractors and operating companies have brought to our attention early warning of concerns relating to bitumen supplies in the UK.

"These issues are yet to affect our surfacing operations, although if this issue persists it is anticipated this may affect future programmes.

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Neil Greig, the Scotland-based policy and research director of motoring group IAM RoadSmart, said: “The price of bitumen must be going up alongside other oil-based products, which of course means less resurfacing or pothole repairs can be completed within existing budgets.

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"This is not good news for Scottish drivers as the main road building season opens up.

"Without extra leeway in budgets Scotland’s maintenance backlog risks falling even further behind.”

Dominic Browne, editor of Highways magazine, said: “In the roads sector, the current issues are particularly acute because we are so dependent on oil and fuel.

"With many, if not most councils facing frozen or even declining budgets, the impact on local conditions could be devastating and indeed unmanageable in places.”

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