Hampshire roads in 'desperate need' of repair as government funding falls

ROADS across Hampshire will continue to deteriorate in the coming years without government intervention.

By David George
Tuesday, 3rd August 2021, 4:55 am

That is the warning from Hampshire County Council, which has admitted that delays to road repairs are becoming 'noticeable'. Portsmouth City Council’s lead member for transport has also admitted that the situation is worrying.

It comes via a report from the county council's director of economy, transport and environment, Tim Lawton, which went before the executive lead member, Councillor Russell Oppenheimer.

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Potholes are a perpetual blight on Hampshire's roads. Picture: Frank Reid

The council believes that a combination of high demand for roadworks, budget cuts, an HGV driver shortage and the Covid-19 pandemic are all to blame for these ‘unprecedented' delays.

Motorists are also concerned that the council’s shortcomings will hit their own pockets.

Cllr Oppenheimer said: ‘There is a very serious situation here because of the cumulative impact of all these issues.

‘We all know how important our highways are to communities, businesses and emergency services.’

Opposition councillor from the Liberal Democrats, Cllr Martin Tod, added: ‘We are squeezing as much as we can out of an ever-declining pot.

‘Councillors are bearing the brunt of the problems but the government is actively cutting the money available.’

The county council is proposing to re-prioritise work that needs to be carried out, with further details due later this year.

In Portsmouth, the roads are maintained via a private finance initiative (PFI) with Colas, which costs the council £2.4m per month.

Cabinet member for traffic and transportation, Cllr Lynne Stagg, is still concerned that the budget for road repairs could slip away.

She said: 'The PFI means we don't have to worry about doing the work ourselves, because Colas will take care of it.

'We're still worried about it though - £2.4m is a lot to pay every month, and things like education and social care have to be paid out first, so if the budget from central government keeps on shrinking then the money for that has to come from other areas, which could include the transport budget.'

Meanwhile in Southampton, deputy council leader Cllr Jeremy Moulton has promised huge investment into the city’s streets.

He said: ‘Just last week, we announced £10m will be spent on improvements to local roads and pavements over the next two years, while a further £830,000 will help to establish several dedicated pothole repair crews across the city.

‘This is in addition to the £6m a year we already invest in our roads, contributing to our biggest spend over a two-year period to date.

‘With the additional investment in more pothole repair crews, our roads will soon receive an enhanced level of service prior to the start of imminent or future large-scale road maintenance schemes.’

However, motorists remain concerned about whether the necessary repairs can even be completed, regardless of the money being there or not.

Eric Appleby, regional organiser of the Hampshire TVR Car Club, said: 'One of our guys hit a massive pothole in Hythe a while back and it cost him hundreds of pounds to repair the damage.

‘A few hundred quid is the minimum - if a pothole pulls you across towards a ditch, or even towards oncoming traffic, it can cause real danger.

‘If the roads get worse, we'll have to stop driving TVRs and go and buy Hummers instead.’

The AA is also worried that residential streets will suffer even more than main roads.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: 'Arguably, the road network is a council’s largest asset. Without it, many goods and services cannot function, but years of chronic underinvestment means the infrastructure is crumbling.

'While potholes and damaged surfaces cause frustration and breakdowns for car owners, they can be tragically fatal for cyclists and motorcyclists.

'As they take most of the traffic, main roads take the lion’s share of investment, however many residential streets are in desperate need of resurfacing.

'At present roads are resurfaced once every 83 years, so if it happens where you live you could be forgiven for holding a street party to celebrate as it is a once-in-a-lifetime situation.’

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: ‘In the first three months of this year – during the height of the latest coronavirus lockdown – RAC patrols went to equivalent of 52 breakdowns every day where poor quality roads were the cause.

‘This was an incredible three-fold increase compared to the last three months of 2020, and really shows what a desperate state so many of the country’s roads are in.

‘While the colder winter was almost certainly at least partly responsible, we fear that without more long-term, dedicated funding the quality of roads across Hampshire and beyond risks worsening even further.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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