Pothole crisis after another Siberian freeze in Shropshire
The battle to tackle Shropshire’s potholes continued today after the region suffered another Siberian freeze – leading to warnings of a ‘tragic toll’ on our roads.
Roads in the county have been battered by the third significant snowfall of the winter. And, amid calls nationally for HS2 money to be diverted to road maintenance, workmen today continued to attempt to tackle the crisis.
Temperatures dipped as low as -6C (21F) over the weekend as snow arrived but milder weather returned today. The constant freeze-thaw leads to cracks in roads that are then turned into potholes by cars passing over.
According to the Local Government Association councils are fixing a pothole every 19 seconds despite funding pressures.
The RAC today warned the legacy of our frozen winter will be poor roads for years to come. And AA president Edmund King added the figures represented the “tragic toll” English weather had taken on UK roads, which he said were in an awful state.
Labour MP Catherine West also called for some of the £42bn earmarked for the HS2 high speed rail link to the West Midlands to be redirected urgently to fix potholes and “prevent cycling deaths”.
Telford & Wrekin Council has approved a plan to prioritise main roads to ensure busy routes are safe – but admits that means minor roads will have to wait for repairs. It said it had been was alerted to 118 potholes between March 3 and 9 alone in the Telford area.
In January alone Shropshire Council received 1,200 reports of damage. Each day the council’s highways teams are out repairing an average of 260 potholes.
Telford councillor Angela McClements said it made sense to prioritise main roads.
She said there was currently no distinction between a 40mm pothole on a highly-trafficked, high-speed road and a 40mm pothole on a barely used lane – both currently have to be repaired within the same timescales even though it is clear that there is higher risk to road users on the high speed road.
She said: “This does not mean there will be an urban rural split. The higher risk repairs will take priority wherever they are.”
Councillor Steve Davenport, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for highways, said that his team were working hard to address the problem, which had been exacerbated by this weekend’s freeze, saying teams were “working flat out”.
Councillor Tracey Huffer, who represents Ludlow East, added: “Ludlow is horrendous. Sheet Road is notoriously bad. It has got to the stage where it is not just about filling potholes - it needs resurfacing.”
Ludlow councillor Viv Parry said: “In the rural areas some of the potholes are so big you could park a tanker truck in them.”
Market Drayton councillor Roy Aldcroft said: “I believe the Highways Department are concentrating on A and B roads. Some estate roads are a lower priority.”
A hole lotta nuisance
Look around our roads and this is what you are likely to see. After one of our harshest winters in years our roads are opening up at an alarmingly rapid rate. These are just some of the pothole pictures sent in by Shropshire Star readers.
The repeated action of freeze and thaw has made this winter a particularly difficult one for councils whose job it is to maintain roads.
In January alone Shropshire Council received 1,200 reports of damage. Each day the council’s highways teams are out repairing an average of 260 road defects.
Telford & Wrekin Council said it had been was alerted to 118 potholes between March 3 and 9 alone, and has voted to change the way it prioritises the worst cases.
Councillor Steve Davenport, Shropshire Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said that his team were working hard to address the problem.
He said: “We recognise that residents are concerned about the number of potholes appearing on our roads and we’re working flat out throughout the county to address the problem on a priority basis.
“Unfortunately, repeated fluctuations in weather conditions – from above to below freezing – coupled with heavy rainfall, create the worst possible conditions for road surfaces, and result in an increase in the number of potholes. This is a problem that many other local authorities are also facing.
“We carry out regular inspections of the roads but potholes can happen very fast, and with over 5,000 kilometres of roads, cycleways, footpaths and verges in Shropshire we also rely on reports from the public so that we can ensure all potholes are treated.”
Shaun Davies, leader of Telford & Wrekin Council, added: “I would like to thank our staff and those in other public services, volunteers and residents who worked flat out during very cold and very difficult conditions brought about by the Beast from the East and Storm Emma.
“In the run-up to and during these two extreme weather events, between February 27 and March 5 we completed 19 grit runs throughout the borough, spreading 1,124 tonnes of grit on to our roads.
“However the very cold temperatures, light dusty snow and high winds led to drifting of snow on many of the north/south roads and resulted in some road closures.
“These included the A41, the road from Little Wenlock to The Wrekin, Coalbrookdale Road and Pitchcroft Lane. Following the thaw, 118 potholes were reported to the council between March 3 and 9. In addition, our own pothole team is going around the borough looking for ones that haven’t been reported. The team is repairing them all as quickly as it can.”
Today Telford & Wrekin Council confirmed that a new way of prioritising which potholes need to be repaired will not lead to a disparity between urban and rural areas.
The cabinet met on Thursday to discuss a report into fixing potholes and voted to adopt a risk-based approach to repairs.
Last year the council was second of 104 other local highway authorities for overall satisfaction with highways and transport.
A report says that it received £1.5 million a year in government funding to spend on the highway, £1.49 per metre of road. But the report also says that one pothole costs an average of £120 to repair.
Councillor Tracey Huffer, who represents Ludlow East, said: “Ludlow is horrendous. Councillor Viv Parry has been trying to get Sheet Road sorted out for a long, long time. It is notoriously bad.
“It has got to the stage where it is not just about filling potholes – it needs resurfacing.”
Councillor Parry said another road in Ludlow, Corve Street, was resurfaced “so badly” last year that it already needs to be done again. She added: “
The south of the county has got some of the worst. If you drive out of Ludlow you will not find one rural road that has not got a massive pothole.”
Roy Aldcroft, of Market Drayton, represents the town on Shropshire Council. He said: “Remembering that Shropshire has one of if not the largest road network in England, you can imagine the problems.
“I believe the highways department is concentrating on A and B roads, which means some of the estate roads such as those around Market Drayton are a lower priority.
“We are hoping for improvements from April onwards particularly with the medium or lower priority areas but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
In 2016 a total of 4,610 potholes were reported to Telford & Wrekin Council and the authority paid out £7,700 in compensation to motorists whose vehicles had been damaged by holes in the road surface.