In a damning report released late last week, it emerged that more than one third of roads in the Highlands are of substandard condition. Not only that but roads in the north are deteriorating faster than virtually every other part of Scotland.
The report estimates the cost of a comprehensive repair at around £156 million. Merely maintaining the network to the current dilapidated state will cost at least £16.25 million every year.
Highland Council’s director of community services William Gilfillan presented the study’s findings to councillors last week along with a stark warning that the north of the country is facing a potential infrastructure collapse unless effective action is taken.
An unbalanced agreement
The law defines what is not acceptable behaviour of people using the roads. A motorist must obey the signals given by traffic lights, he is forbidden from driving when his actions are impaired by drugs and he must not drive above certain speeds. He must buy insurance. He must maintain his vehicles to a minimum level. He must report any crashes. He must refrain from using mobile phones. His driving must meet ambiguously defined standards.
The list goes on.
These restrictions are there to ensure the safety of motorists and pedestrians. However, even the most careful of drivers can be undone by the roads in a dangerous condition of disrepair. With the demands made on motorists, it is reasonable to expect councils to maintain road networks to a standard which does not undermine their efforts.
In the case of the Highland Council, they have clearly failed to do so.
Reaction to the report’s findings has been uniformly damning and critical. Road safety organisations and haulage industry bodies have been particularly vocal.
Sarah-Jane Martin, of the charity Brake, said:
“It is vitally important that road surfaces are kept in safe condition, as poorly maintained roads can contribute to devastating crashes that end and ruin lives. Investing in road repairs can help prevent the huge cost to society of a serious crash.”
While the report describes deteriorated roads as “substandard”, let’s call them what they are: dangerous.
Martin Reid, regional director for the Road Haulage Association, said:
“We get regular complaints about the state of the roads. Anything that causes problems getting from A to B is an issue for our members. Time is money and poor roads can lead to additional wear and tear on the vehicles.”
While the bill for comprehensive repair of the network stands at £165 million, the true cost is significantly higher. The transport industry relies on the country’s infrastructure and poor road conditions hamstring their operations.
With the condition of the network worsening, and at a rate faster than nearly everywhere else in Scotland, councils need a viable strategy to prevent an impending meltdown.
We will closely scrutinise any proposals made by the Highland Council and will keep you abreast of any developments when they arise.