Yorkshire's pothole crisis: £1 billion of repairs needed, but Tour de France route being fixed

Under-funded councils desperate for more money for road maintenance

by John Stevenson   March 7, 2014  

Look out for potholes - Stage 1 of the Tour de France goes over Buttertubs Pass (CC licensed image by Sou'wester:Flickr)

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.

10 user comments

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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!

posted by NickK123 [70 posts]
7th March 2014 - 16:18

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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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posted by Gkam84 [8825 posts]
7th March 2014 - 17:01

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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!

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

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posted by KiwiMike [474 posts]
7th March 2014 - 17:26

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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.

posted by Guyz2010 [284 posts]
7th March 2014 - 17:40

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Very much looking forward to Essex sorting the roads of my commute out also. Big Grin There are signs up about impending roadworks already.

Boardman CX Team '14 | Cannondale CAAD8 '12 (written off, SMIDSY) | Scott Sportster '08

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posted by Gizmo_ [826 posts]
7th March 2014 - 18:22

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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.

posted by earth [71 posts]
7th March 2014 - 20:11

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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.

Chadders x

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posted by chadders [73 posts]
7th March 2014 - 20:29

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Will be interesting to see the long-term economic impact on B&B's/cafes along the route.

I was told there would be Cake. Luckily there's http://TestValleyCC.org.uk

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posted by KiwiMike [474 posts]
7th March 2014 - 21:14

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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...

posted by drmatthewhardy [305 posts]
7th March 2014 - 21:55

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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

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posted by Northernbike [127 posts]
8th March 2014 - 15:29

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