Will cash injection put an end to Lancashire's pothole hell?
An unusually wet winter combined with funding cuts to the repair budget has lead to an epidemic of potholes on county roads, with drivers complaining of serious damage to their cars caused by dodgy road surfaces.
Lancashire County Council says 7,808 defects were found in February and 7,346 in March on county roads, whereas usually only around 5,000 a month are found at the height of winter.
Now - after drafting in 29 outside teams to help the council’s own 24 crews - work has begun to tackle the backlog of repairs,
For motorcyclist Lorraine Elliott of the Millennium 2000 BC bike club the news is welcome.
Lorraine, of Leyland, who is known as Zebedee to club members, drives a three wheeler trike with an Austin Metro 1300 engine. She said: “If they are going to start doing all these potholes I think it would be good. Some of them have been horrendous!”
She continued: “I’ve to manoeuvre so my front wheel doesn’t get into a pothole, but remember I’ve got two back wheels. If there’s traffic coming the other way I’ve no choice but to go through it!”
In particular Lorraine said she is pleased a huge pothole on the junction of Golden Hill and Broadfield in Leyland had been repaired.
Councillors have been advised that rather than reacting to deteriorations in the road network the council wants to develop a more proactive “preventative intervention” maintenance programme.
County Coun John Fillis, cabinet member for highways and transport, last week gave the go-ahead for the major works programme as a key decision. The biggest portion of the the Department of Transport £20.454m maintenance funding pot - some £8m - will be spent on maintaining major class A, B and C roads. Work on urban unclassified roads will use up £1.304m, with work on rural unclassified roads taking £1.050m.
Some £3m will go on footways, another £3m on bridges, £2m on remedying structural defects, £1m on drainage, £1m on streetlighting and £.1m on traffic signals.
This cash comes from a separate fund to the £1.2m recently allocated by the Government for the additional pothole repairs and £5m for flood repairs allocated in February. The latter included money for work at Dunsop Road, Whitewell, near Longridge.
And in a separate scheme individual county councillors have had a say in the distribution of a £2.5m Local Priority Response Fund, set up by the council last year to invest in improvements to unclassified urban roads and footpaths.
County Coun Fillis dubbed the Priority Fund “very much a front door scheme.”
He said: “It’s all about the little things that mean so much to so many people....people want to know what is happening outside their front door.”
County councillors were asked to nominate two schemes in their wards for the Priority scheme and Coun Fillis said: “As far as I’m concerned this is about local members giving something back. We asked each member to come up with two projects they feel were important to their local communities ... We’re working to put that right after a very difficult January with the floods and the wet weather.”
Maintenance Task List
The resurfacing projects on major roads will include: • £202,777 to resurface/inlay Lancaster Street to the A5106 in Chorley, £300,688 for the B5259 Ribby Road Manor Road to Kirkham bypass roundabout
•£138,391 to resurface Melrose to Moorside villa on the B5269 Lewth Lane, Woodplumpton
•£36,117 to resurface Preston’s Ringway from Rock FM to the prison.
• In South Ribble the Brownedge Road roundabout will be resurfaced at a cost of £18,979.
• Major road surface dressing, which provides a weather proof seal on roads, includes nine stretches of roadway in Chorley, one in Preston (from Woodside Avenue to Gamull Lane), ten in Ribble Valley, three in South Ribble, three in Fylde, seven in Lancaster, two in Garstang and more.
Work on rural unclassified roads will include pre-patching surface dressing on Ashley Lane from Eaves Green Lane to Inglewhite Road and on Back Lane from Camforth Hall Lane to Cumeragh Lane.
• Road safety projects include £34,015 for a road marking scheme, central hatching strip and resurfacing on part of Belmont Road in Chorley Rural East and £49,923 for a new kerb build out south of the Gulf service station exit, with relocation of a lamp and gully on the A6 Lancaster New Road junction with the B6430 Lancaster Road, Garstang.
• Some 71 bridge projects will include £8,800 work on the Blackpool Road railway bridge and inspection of the Walton bridge on London Road.
• There will be eight cycling safety schemes, including cycle sign improvements in Preston’s Ribbleton Avenue and Longridge Road. There will also be improvements to a footpath at Elston Lane, Grimsargh.
• Council officers will be asked to identify further cycling schemes for the programme.
Phil Durnell, head of highways for Lancashire County Council, said: “The exceptionally wet weather over the winter has had a very severe impact on our roads, particularly the storms at the end of last year, when the damage caused was immediately obvious once the floods receded.
“These conditions created the perfect environment for potholes – they form when water gets into minute cracks in the road surface, and the freezing and thawing caused by the cold temperatures make the crack widen until a hole appears.
“This has resulted in far more potholes than we usually get at this time of year. Our teams have been working flat-out over the last few months, but there’s a limit to the number of repairs they can do each week.
“The wet weather has made progress more difficult due to the potholes being full of water – they need to be dried out, and this increases the time it take to make a repair.
The ongoing rain has also meant that some repairs have not had time to properly seal, resulting in them washing out and needing to be done again.
“The only way we can tackle the number of repairs needed, and maintain good quality repairs, is to employ these extra resources.”
But the council’s own scrutiny committee is to be asked to review best practices for repairs - after Cabinet member County Coun John Fillis admitted there had been problems caused by an inconsistent approach to some repairs, with crews tasked with making a decision about repairing lesser holes around main potholes.