£400m backlog to repair county roads

Signs of the times: The cost of keeping up with the repair bills for Lincolnshires road network.
Signs of the times: The cost of keeping up with the repair bills for Lincolnshires road network.

The crippling cost of repairing a backlog of problems on Lincolnshire’s roads has risen to a staggering £400m.

That is the startling admission by the man in charge of the county’s 5,500 miles of roads.

Councillor Richard Davies - Executive Councillor for Highways at County Hall - has also revealed the authority is £25m short of the funding it needs this year to ‘stay on top’ of repairs.

That is despite the fact Lincolnshire is ranked among the top two performing counties in the country in relation to highways matters - and has recently secured additional cash from the Government for repairs.

I can also reveal the county council receives more than 70,000 calls from residents every year reporting problems with road surfaces.

However, Coun Davies accepted a new computerised system designed to deal with complaints is not working properly.

In addition, Coun Davies revealed the authority is now buying data from mobile phone companies which records vehicle movements and helps decide how - and where - improvements are made.

Coun Davies has also confirmed the hard-pressed authority is increasingly having to prioritise which roads it repairs - because of funding issues.

He said he ‘made no excuses’ for the fact money is targeted at roads with a poor safety record and that some badly worn surfaces elsewhere might not be repaired.

Coun Davies made the series of announcements at a meeting of Horncastle Town Council last Tuesday (July 11).

He gave the strongest hint yet that the county council was planning a new by-pass for Horncastle.

Coun Davies said: “We are £25m short of where we would like to be in terms of staying on top of repairs.

“There is probably a £400m backlog depending on the terms of how you measure it.

“We are the second or third largest highways authority in the country.

“We’ve got about 5,500 miles of roads.

“We get about 70,000 contacts from members of the public every year about issues.”

Coun Davies confirmed the county was hoping to secure more cash from the Government to pay for a new roads - and for much needed repairs.

He said a by-pass for Horncastle would alleviate delays and give a multi-million pound boost to the county’s coastal economy,

Coun Davies said the county highways department had saved around £7m with a series of cutbacks, including a reduction of around 28 staff members.

He said its high rating meant it was recognised the county spent its allocation of Government funding well.

He added: “We were one of only two counties this year not to have their (highways) budgets reduced.”

Regarding mobile phone data, Coun Davies stressed the information provided vital information for highways’ officers.

He also pledged to sort out ‘teething problems’ with the new complaints system, pointing out it had only been introduced in February.

Coun Davies also confirmed it was planned all town and parish councils would be allocated a specific highways officer to discuss major issues.

‘Walkabouts’ in larger communities will also be introduced, involving officers and local councillors.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has announced proposals for a potential multi-billion pound pot of funding for improvements to local A-roads.

The Government is proposing to allocate a portion of its National Roads Fund for improvements to local authority A-roads. This will be funded through vehicle excise duty which in 2016/17 totalled £5.8billion.

The funding can be used for improvements, such as bypasses, which help take traffic away from rural villages and towns.

The Government intends to carry out a consultation on its proposals in the autumn, with a view to funding being made available in the 2020/21 financial year.

Coun Richard Davies, Executive Member for Highways at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “We’re pleased that the Government has recognised the importance of our local A-roads and is making a substantial amount of funding available for much-needed improvements.

“We have many roads in Lincolnshire that we feel deserve a share, including major strategic routes like the A158, A15, A16 and A17, and over the next few months will give careful consideration to what we might want to bid for.”