Shropshire's rural roads crumbling under weight of heavier agriculture vehicles
Shropshire’s network of rural roads is crumbling under the weight of heavier agriculture vehicles which were allowed under changes to highway laws made five years ago.
With almost half the county’s roads unclassified, many lanes and other routes are deteriorating at an accelerated rate a report to Shropshire Council says.
Police and National Farmers’ Union representatives have been invited to a council meeting on Thursday to debate the problem after Councillor Joyce Barrow flagged up the state of the roads.
In his report Steve Smith, Shropshire Council’s assistant director of infrastructure, said many rural roads are narrow historic lanes, which have not been designed and constructed to meet modern needs.
“They are often little more than a build-up of tarmac overlaid upon older surfaces, narrow lanes with insufficient room for wider vehicles to pass,” he said.
“As agricultural equipment has evolved over the years it has grown both heavier and wider.”
Mr Smith said: “Changes in agricultural machinery and vehicles are not regulated through other processes such as planning.
“Much of the unclassified roads network was not designed to take vehicles of this size and therefore many routes are deteriorating at an accelerated rate.
"In particular the width of the vehicles is often causing either the vehicle itself or passing vehicles to overrun the edge of the highway onto the verge. crumbling the edge of the highway, which is without kerbing.”
He said changes to highway regulations in 2015 increased the maximum laden weight limit for most wheeled agricultural tractors and trailers from 24.39 to 31 tonnes and increased the maximum permitted speed from 20mph to 25 mph.
“At the time of this revision the DfT believed that the increase would have little impact on the highway condition.
“However, there is an increasing body of evidence that there is an acceleration in the deterioration of the carriageway condition in some locations which is creating a maintenance pressures which are difficult to address within the existing financial envelope.
“The rural road network requires significant investment in order to future-proof them.”
Shropshire Council receives below average funding per km of road network as part of the DfT highway maintenance grant, just over £5,000 per km per year with the focus on maintaining the busiest routes in good condition. The county has 2,372 kilometres of unclassified roads with 16 per cent needing repair.
The council has applied for £11.5 million funding to address the situation and has already made a £10m investment in surface dressing - 96 per cent targeted at rural roads and mended 2,450 defects on U roads in 2020.