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Potholes as bad as Namibia, as 'crisis' hits roads in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon and Gloucestershire

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: January 20, 2014

Potholes across the West Country are costing councils and drivers millions - and the issue is now one that may swing a general election

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The West's roads are now "as bad as Namibia's" and will cost £400 million to repair, it was revealed last night.

That bill is expected to rise even higher if the "perfect storm" of wet weather is followed by a cold, wintry snap.

Yesterday, the Local Government Association urged ministers to set up an emergency fund to fix the UK's road network, which they say was already suffering from a £10.5billion backlog before the storms arrived.

Prime Minister David Cameron has been invited to see the crumbling road network in the West Country first hand as some councils warn they are considering "a maintenance retreat" from more rural routes.

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But there are fears this could have dire consequences for the rural economy and the state of the region's roads is set to become a major issue at the county elections in May. An AA survey shows that over 90 per cent of motorists would vote for a party that could guarantee pothole-free roads.

Insurers estimate there are 200,000 potholes waiting to be repaired at any one time and freezing conditions predicted for the second half of January after one of the wettest seasons on record could produce the worst pothole season ever seen.

Meanwhile, the United Kingdom fell from 24th to 28th in the world for the quality of its roads, according to the World Economic Forum, and is now level with Namibia and below Cyprus and Chile in the league table.

The cost of fixing the West's potholes has already been estimated at £400 million – and that will rise if the last week of January brings freezing temperatures.

Potholes.co.uk spokesman Rory Buckley said: "This wet weather will be saturating roads right across the UK with existing potholes channelling water to weaken the road's substructure, literally paving the way for even more potholes and defects to arise."

It was illustrated recently when ten cars had to pull over with burst tyres and other damage within minutes at the side of the B4215 in Newent and Gloucestershire County Council, which fixes around 50,000 potholes a year, had to carry out urgent repairs.

This year the county council expects to spend £24 million on roads, but tackling the backlog of all repairs would cost £86 million. Network manager Scott Tompkins told the Western Daily Press: "We invested £5.9 million extra into our roads last year, which is making a big difference in keeping down the damage caused to our highways by the severe weather. Some damage is unavoidable and, after bad weather, highways teams work round the clock responding to all potholes reported to them and prioritising those in most need of repair or on the busiest routes."

In Dorset more than 1,000 potholes, blocked gulleys and other road defects have been reported since January 1 and the storms put "exceptional demand" on highways crews.

Wiltshire County Council say it will cost £100 million a year extra to repair all the potholes on its roads and upgrade all the road surfaces – but it can only afford to spend less than a tenth of that. Instead of upgrading all of Wiltshire's 2,750 miles of roads between now and 2020, the council can afford to spend just £52 million extra over the next six years to try to at least clear the backlog of unrepaired potholes.

"Road maintenance is clearly a priority for our communities and it's a priority for us," said transport chief John Thomson. "We're finding a succession of severe winters and flooding has meant many roads have deteriorated."

A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: "We have a backlog of highway maintenance which was in the region of £100 million when last calculated a couple of years ago. We are committed to keeping up with our inspection regime and repairing any safety defects found to ensure public safety is maintained and all of the network remains open. Recent flooding has undoubtedly added to existing problems but at this stage it is impossible to tell the full extent of the damage as we still have some roads and bridges under water."

Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council's Cabinet member for highway management and flood prevention, has invited David Cameron to see for himself why the county needs £64 million to maintain roads in the current condition when it has only been allocated £35 million.

"We are at a crossroads," he said "If we do not get the funding we are going to see the whole network fall apart."

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  • wheelie_bin  |  January 21 2014, 8:41AM

    I'm moving to Namibia, the potholes are no worse that here and it's warmer.

  • alandbailey  |  January 20 2014, 5:08PM

    This government should have ALL our roads repaired and maintained , Take the money from the HS2 money pit and the bloated Overseas Aid budget. This should also provide many new jobs and reduce welfare claims but make sure that our indigenous (and youth) unemployed get priority over immigrants. This would have good results for all - much better than shaving 20 mins off a rail journey for rich businessmen. Upgrading the whole road network would be kinder to the environment than destroying houses, villages and farmland just to build HS2.

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  • SELINA30  |  January 20 2014, 2:34PM

    Another Tory shambles.

  • ChiAm  |  January 20 2014, 12:52PM

    Namibia Nationals are not going to be in favour of this discrimination. Poor journalism to discriminate a Country for the purpose of comparison then again then again I do understand these little news organisations are hard pressed to afford the wages of competent journalists.

  • nickthompson  |  January 20 2014, 8:45AM

    "Potholes as bad as Namibia, as 'crisis' hits roads in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon and Gloucestershire"----------------------------------------NATION WIDE.

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  • nickthompson  |  January 20 2014, 8:43AM

    "Potholes as bad as Namibia, as 'crisis' hits roads in Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon and Gloucestershire"----------------------------------------NATION WIDE.

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