£5m needed to avert highways crisis in North Yorkshire
17/02/2014 Highways Reporters
A contribution of at least £5 million is needed to avert a crisis on the roads of North Yorkshire.
That’s the message from the leader of North Yorkshire County Council John Weighell who has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin, appealing to him at least to match a £5m pot of money which has been set aside to tackle urgently needed highways repairs.
Councillor Weighell is hoping to raise the issue when he meets McLoughlin in London next week.
In a letter to McLoughlin, Cllr Weighell reveals that a quarter of the county's minor roads – which cover a distance of 5,000 kilometres and constitute more than half the network – are in urgent need of repairs. He says the issue "is rapidly becoming a crisis".
The council has declared the state of the highway network a major priority and has allocated an extra £5m towards the repairs, even though it is facing severe financial cuts across the board.
Cllr Weighell acknowledges some increased funding from central government, but says the annual allocation of £28m still falls far short of the estimated annual expenditure of £60m required to address the problems.
"We are considering investing more of our reserves if you are prepared to invest with us," he wrote in his letter to McLoughlin.
"Insufficient funding for highway maintenance is not a problem unique to North Yorkshire, but I believe we feel the pain particularly badly. North Yorkshire is the biggest local authority in England by area and has the third largest road network. The topography of North Yorkshire means we are vulnerable to extreme weather. Our dispersed population and our rural economy make our minor roads particularly important. Added to this, the cars, HGVs and agricultural vehicles are getting heavier and larger and this has increased their impact on the condition of these minor roads."
An analysis prepared by the council's highways officers shows that the maintenance backlog for the entire network is approximately £322m, more than half of it within the "category four" minor road classification. Even if the backlog was removed, the council estimates that it would still require £60m a year simply to maintain the highways in good condition.
Cllr Weighell added: "Of course, we are not just throwing money at the problem. New and improved systems allow better management and ensure we get the best possible value for money. This has allowed us to arrest the deterioration of our most heavily used roads. However, this has been at the expense of our minor roads."