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Shropshire Star comment: Potholes a never-ending story

By Shropshire Star | Shifnal | Opinions | Published:

Take the roads and you’re liable to be in for a rough ride, as the potholes epidemic continues unabated.

The state of some roads is shocking. To drive along them is like negotiating a minefield, and if you are unfortunate enough to hit one of the craters, the result is shuddering, bone-shaking, and potentially expensive as your 21st century car comes to grief on a road of which the Victorian road engineers would have been ashamed.

The risks go beyond damage to suspension and tyres, as has been pointed out by the long-suffering people in Shifnal.

Residents say lives are at risk, and that is no exaggeration. If you doubt it, get on your bike – because it is when you are on two wheels that you get a deep insight into how dangerous defects in the road surface can be.

An obvious hazard comes from a cyclist hitting a pothole and being pitched from his or her bicycle. As this is something to be feared by cyclists, naturally this is a fate they want to avoid, but the effect on their behaviour causes other dangers.

Once they see a pothole in their path, they will swerve to avoid it. On a busy road with plenty of cars, that could be a case of going from the frying pan into the fire, catching out nearby drivers and increasing the risk of a collision.

And as potholes multiply in those gullies at the side of the road where draining water runs, that is a disincentive to hugging the side of the road. So cyclists are tempted to ride further into the carriageway, increasing frustration levels for motorists seeking to pass, and reducing the safe clearance margins when they finally make their move.

From the view of councils, filling potholes is not a very sexy task. It is never-ending, and so the cost is never-ending. But then doing nothing means they get worse and more expensive to fix.

Yet this is not a choice for councils. It is a duty.

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The cost of keeping our roads maintained to a decent standard is high. The cost of not doing so is unacceptable.

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There is a danger that the poor performance of West Midlands Trains is being used as an excuse for political point scoring.

That certainly seems to be the aim of Labour MP Liam Byrne, a candidate for West Midlands Mayor, who has called on ministers to strip the struggling operator of its franchise.

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It is all well and good Mr Byrne wading into the argument, but he is at least two months too late.

In that period the company has implemented changes that bosses insist will lead to improvements.

Sadly the changes coincided with a month’s worth of the worst weather in decades.

WMT’s new regime deserve a chance to put things right. Bosses are fully aware of the consequences if things don’t improve.

It is noticeable that Mr Byrne’s intervention features criticism of Conservative Mayor Andy Street, where he prefixes “Mayor” with “Tory” like it’s a dirty word.

He may want to reflect on the fact that quite a lot of people in these parts voted for the Conservatives at the general election.

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