While more than a little alarming, the revelation that Scotland’s roads need £2.25 billion of repairs, will come as no surprise to anyone who uses the roads, whether by car, on the bus, or on a bike. The report also found that 37% of our Scotland’s roads are in unacceptable condition.
As long ago as 2005, alarm bells were ringing about the way our roads were falling into disrepair. A NESTRANS
report that year warned: "To address the current backlog of infrastructure repairs in the north-east would require around £25million a year over the next 10 years”
Our roads are public assets. The people we elect have a duty to look after our assets on our behalf. So, the question has to be asked, why was the warning not heeded? Why have our roads been allowed to deteriorate, as a result of neglect, into such an appalling state?
After last winter some of our politicians tried to blame the crumbling roads on the bad winter. Now, it is clear to all, that pretence is no longer valid.
With the deep cuts in public expenditure, there is now a new excuse that our authorities can trot out to replace the weather. “It’s the cutbacks, there is no money for roads maintenance,” or words to that effect.
But, good transport connections – road, rail, air and sea – are absolutely critical to any successful economy and particularly to one that is relatively remote from the markets. Inefficiency in transport connections – like taxes on fuel or road usage – will simply add cost to the bottom line of everything imported or exported into the area, whether it be a box of cornflakes, or sophisticated oil industry hardware.
Families in the north-east are also picking up the cost for the dreadful condition of our roads, through bills for tyres and suspension that have been pummelled to death by the potholes.
I speak from experience, having spent £300 of our household budget in the past six months for tyres that were diagnosed as having sustained a heavy impact on the tread (read “pothole”).Scotland’s Auditor General
put it extremely well when he said: "Members of the public are increasingly dissatisfied with the condition of our roads. The pattern of spending and scale of backlog means that the value of these public assets is not being sustained.
"But by deferring essential expenditure on infrastructure,” he continued, “public bodies are storing up problems for the future and passing a greater burden onto generations to come."
Strong words indeed.
What did our many councillors, MSPs and various government and local authority officials think they were doing by constantly deferring essential maintenance? Did they really think there would never be a day of reckoning?
Well the day of reckoning is here now and the bill is already about as big as for the building the new Forth Crossing.
You can read the Auditor General’s press release at www.audit-scotland.gov.uk/media/