THE £700m bill for bringing Yorkshire’s crumbling and pot-holed roads back to an acceptable state of repair can be revealed for the first time today.
Freedom of Information requests submitted to the region’s councils have confirmed that vast swathes of Yorkshire’s 20,000-mile road network are in poor overall condition and require urgent maintenance within a year.
In Doncaster alone, £135m would have to be found in order to clear the town’s roads of potholes and cracks, and return highways to a state in which only “some deterioration is apparent”. The council currently spends less than £8m a year on road repairs.
The total repair bill for the whole of Yorkshire is in excess of £700m, at a time when most councils face sizeable cuts in their highway maintenance budgets.
In Hull, the money reserved by the city council for maintaining roads has been slashed by almost 15 per cent since 2009, while in North Yorkshire it has decreased by more than 10 per cent.
Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, warned many roads will have to be closed completely over the coming years if conditions are to improve.
He said: “When it comes to it, we’re not talking about filling potholes – we’re talking about rebuilding whole roads. It takes a remarkably skilled operator not to just create more cracks when you are filling so many potholes.
“But if you want to shut roads to rebuild them, you’ve got the problem of where that traffic is going to go. People don’t want potholes but people don’t want closed roads either.”
He added: “All we can do is to keep campaigning to the Government that this is an issue that needs to be tackled – but there are so many conflicting pressures on Government in this area.”
In the latest poll conducted by the AA, the condition of roads actually beat the cost of motoring as the top concern among drivers.
In August 2011, 42 per cent listed road condition as their biggest worry, compared with just 19 per cent who were most worried by motoring costs.
Drivers in Sheffield have long complained about the state of their roads, and the city is confirmed today as having the largest repair bill in the region – £150m.
But Sheffield Council is poised to sign off the country’s largest ever council project using the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), designed to bring every single main road and street up to a high standard by the end of the decade. Sheffield’s £2bn PFI deal includes a grant of almost £1bn from Whitehall.
However, no other council will receive comparable help – and repair bills will be even higher when cracked and broken pavements are taken into account.
Few councils can even estimate how much it would cost to bring their pavements up to an acceptable standard, but figures provided by a handful of authorities hint at the scale of the problem.
In North East Lincolnshire alone, the council said £39.5m would be needed to return pavements and footpaths to a reasonable state of repair.
Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said the Government was doing its best to deal with the issue, and has allocated significant funds to authorities in Yorkshire for dealing with potholes.
“Despite the current severe fiscal restraints we are providing £3bn to English authorities for road maintenance between 2011 and 2015 – which includes £307m to authorities in Yorkshire,” he said.
“We are also funding a £6m programme designed to improve efficiencies in highways maintenance.
“We also provided an additional £200m last year for English authorities to repair damage caused by the 2010 winter, which resulted in Yorkshire authorities receiving just under £19m.
“We have done our bit by providing significant funding – it is for local highway authorities to decide how to best use this money.”