A month of snow leaves the UK's roads in a shocking state – as councils struggle to find cash to fund proper repairsWhen the snow melts, don’t think that your troubles will be over. Because the UK’s roads will carry many more potholes – caused by the big freeze.
The cycle of freezing and thawing causes cracks in the Tarmac to widen and the surface to break up. And at a time when road budgets are already stretched by the cost of gritting over the past month, local councils and highway authorities will struggle to patch the roads.
According to the AA, there was a 40% increase in road damage after last February’s two-week cold snap. It pushed the number of potholes up to 1.5 million. Meanwhile, the AA’s insurance arm saw claims for pothole-related damage treble from 700 per month to 2000.
And the organisation said it expected the rise to be far bigger this year because the freeze-up has lasted so much longer.
The Local Government Association, the voice of local councils in England and Wales, says that its members spent £60m last year repairing close on a million potholes. It said they were currently working flat out to fix holes caused by the current weather.
The law says that local councils must look after the roads and, in theory, drivers can sue authorities if they drive across a bumpy or broken road and it damages their cars. But councils routinely dodge such action if they have paperwork to prove that the surface has undergone regular inspection and repair. The trouble for drivers is that what ‘regular’ means is left to the councils to judge. And so most simply claim on their own insurance policies.
If that’s not enough, there’ll be a lot more road works at utilities companies get to grips with water leaks caused by the sub-zero temperatures. One water company in the North-west is taking 7200 calls from customers per day, complaining of burst or frozen pipes: that’s ten times the average for winter.
The AA, however, says that councils focus too much on patching worn-out roads. What they need to do is rebuild road surfaces to correct structural faults.
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