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Under-funded councils desperate for more money for road maintenance

Yorkshire’s roads are so weather-beaten that it will take a billion-pound, 11-year program of repairs to fix them all.

The county’s roads are in the spotlight as it gears up to host the Tour de France Grand Départ on July 5-6. But while the roads that will carry the Tour are getting a £4m facelift, that has pushed back work on other roads.

According to the BBC, eight Yorkshire councils have allocated £4m for repairs to the roads of the Tour route. North Yorkshire will be the biggest spender. With more than half of the route in its jurisdiction, the county is spending £2 million getting them up to scratch.

North Yorkshire recently begged the government for an additional £5m “towards the cost of averting a crisis on the roads”.

But the county, which has the country’s third-largest road network, says it needs a total of £322 million to repair them all.

Some damaged roads near the Tour route are being repaired while maintenance crews are in the area, but after a coroner recently laid the blame for a cyclist’s death on North Yorkshire’s failure to repair a pothole, it’s clear the council’s resources are stretched beyond breaking point.

Council leader John Weighell wrote to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin explaining the county’s problems.

In the letter, he wrote: “Insufficient funding for maintenance is not a problem unique to North Yorkshire, but I believe we feel the pain particularly badly,” wrote council leader John Weighell in a letter to the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.

“We are vulnerable to extreme weather, and our dispersed population and rural economy make our minor roads particularly important.”

And the minor roads in the sprawling, hilly county are extremely popular with cyclists.

He added: “Cars, HGVs and agricultural vehicles are getting heavier, and this has increased their impact on these minor roads.”

North Yorkshire currently receives £28m a year from the government for road repairs. Mr Weighell said that even if the £332 million repair backlog were cleared the council would need £60 million a year to keep the roads in good condition.

Peter Box, the leader of Wakefield Council and chairman of the Local Government Association’s economy and transport board, told the BBC: “Unless something changes, we risk seeing large swathes of Britain’s road network dangerously strewn with potholes and becoming so unsafe they will need to be shut completely.”

The BBC asked 11 Yorkshire local authorities what it woud cost to repair all their roads.

Nine responded, presenting a total bill, without Barnsley and Sheffield, of £1.042 billion.

Where the roads have been repaired for the Tour, local riders are impressed. Top triathletes Alistair and Jonathan Brownlee train on the roads north of Leeds.

“Lots of the roads up here are pretty bad, but it’s been fantastic to ride on the roads where the Tour is going,” said Alistair.

“Over the last six months, we’ve seen them putting new tarmac down, and we’ve enjoyed riding on it.”

His younger brother Jonathan agreed.

“You can definitely notice the changes. The roads do need to improve, but it is happening,” he said.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

10 comments

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NickK123 [93 posts] 2 years ago
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Being somewhat parochial - what about the rest of us! I imagine most areas' roads are pants (especially at this time of year). I wrote to the County Council (Herts) highlighting the position and received a reply that everything was marvellous. An offer to come riding with my group to see the roads from a cyclist's perspective has not been accepted!

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Gkam84 [9092 posts] 2 years ago
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I can't find the article, but Aberdeenshire roads were estimated to need £2.5 billion to repair and that by the time they went round and fixed them all over 10 years, they would require the same about to do it all again...

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KiwiMike [1239 posts] 2 years ago
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I will be doing Skipton-Reeth the morning of the GD, just after the close to traffic (As I imagine about a million others will).

In homage to the North Yorkshire ratepayer, nay the UK populace at large, I shall run my Conti GP 4 Seasons 28c's at 110psi.

Chapeau Yorkies!

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Guyz2010 [304 posts] 2 years ago
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"But while the roads that will carry the Tour are getting a £4m facelift, that has pushed back work on other roads.".

Irrelevant really in that if the roads were substatantially in poor repair then they needed fixing anyway. Come on you Pollies one dead cyclist due to a pothole, I've one wrecked 9yr old car and a written off wheelset all due to Potholes. SOrt our infrastructure out.

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jollygoodvelo [1540 posts] 2 years ago
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Very much looking forward to Essex sorting the roads of my commute out also.  4 There are signs up about impending roadworks already.

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earth [312 posts] 2 years ago
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It was only about 7 years ago now that we gave 200 billion to some failed banks. All they have done with it is take bonuses and lend it to businesses in other countries so they can buy businesses in this country and make the employees redundant.

Special thanks to Gordon and RBS.

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chadders [87 posts] 2 years ago
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Its the roads the Tour is going to run on for crying out loud, we could have tarted up a running track in London but instead the effort and money was put in to make it the spectacle it was. At least in August the roads will be great to ride on around Harrogate, Leeds and Sheffield.

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KiwiMike [1239 posts] 2 years ago
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Will be interesting to see the long-term economic impact on B&B's/cafes along the route.

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matthewn5 [842 posts] 2 years ago
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This highlights the stupidity of building new roads when we can't afford - literally - to fix the roads we already have.

FixItFirst really needs to take off here as it has in the US...

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Northernbike [229 posts] 2 years ago
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drmatthewhardy wrote:

This highlights the stupidity of building new roads when we can't afford - literally - to fix the roads we already have.

FixItFirst really needs to take off here as it has in the US...

The government is spending as we speak £314m adding a third lane to 12 miles of the A1 which passes just to the east of the Yorkshire Dales which would fix an awful lot of potholes and which certainly puts into stark contrast the lack of cash for routine repairs next to the curious ability to find a shed load of cash behind the sofa when there's a ribbon for a politician to cut in front of the cameras