Drivers quizzed over crumbling county roads

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Thousands of motorists across Yorkshire will have a chance to complain about the state of roads in the hope of targeting much-needed funding from the Government to repair the region’s crumbling infrastructure.

Councils covering Hull, North Yorkshire, Wakefield, Doncaster, Barnsley, Sheffield and Rotherham will be quizzing residents as part of a nationwide survey in an attempt to encourage Ministers to come up with more funding for repairs.

A total of 70 councils are taking part in what is believed to be the first study of its kind to bring together a large number of highway authorities from all over England and parts of Scotland to carry out their surveys in a comparable format.

In Hull a quarter of principal routes “could fail at any time” and the city council’s transport portfolio holder, Coun Martin Mancey, said without more funding – the council is £6m short of the £8m needed this year for resurfacing – they will deteriorate further to the point where warning signs could eventually have to go up.

The cost of putting the roads back “as new” is about £73m. Many concrete roads were built before 1939 and are approaching the end of their life, with two bad winters also taking their toll.

A study two years ago surveyed 111 local authorities, representing about three-quarters of councils responsible for road maintenance. The report highlighted North Yorkshire County Council as one of the five worst, with estimated backlogs topping £400m to achieve a gold-plated standard of roads.

Constraints on public spending mean there is little chance the situation will improve in the short-term. It was announced last week that councils face a further 10 per cent cut in funding – in Hull, the council will have lost about £94m between 2010-2011 and 2015-2016.

There has been a glimmer of hope in a letter from the Department for Transport to councils, announcing the Government will fund repairs costing nearly £6bn over six years, starting in 2014. But Coun Mancey is concerned northern councils will get a smaller slice of the funding than their southern counterparts, and hopes the public makes their feelings known.

He said: “If this survey produces what I expect it to produce, a significant level of concern with the state of the roads, then it should raise the priority within central Government that this is an issue that the public want addressed.

“It could influence future Government funding allocations to put more money into infrastructure maintenance. They have put relatively large amounts into new capital investment, they need to put more money into infrastructure maintenance.

“Every person living in the city uses roads. If the general public’s perception is that they are poorly maintained it becomes a potential electoral issue because everybody has a view. If everybody has a negative view it is something that politicians have to be conscious of.”

Questionnaires, which cover a range of issues from the condition of roads and footways to the quality of local bus services, are being sent out to 4,500 randomly-picked residents in Hull this week. The results will be published in the autumn.

The NHT Network Survey Steering Group’s chairman, Peter Radford, said: “There are clear benefits to conducting a public survey in this way. As well as providing excellent value for money, it enables everyone involved to identify areas of best practice and spot national, regional and local trends.

“This is not about producing a league table to champion one geographical area over another, it is about understanding customer views better and working together to deliver the best possible outcomes for local residents.”