Potholes are no one’s fault – but their repairs cannot all be done at once
After the battering they’ve received in the last few months, Suffolk’s roads are a real mess.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many potholes as there have been over the last couple of weeks since the snow disappeared – but I do know that neither Suffolk nor Essex are unique in suffering such problems this year.
The sheer numbers of potholes that have opened up have put an incredible strain on highways’ authorities across the country – and it is not just county councils that are left struggling to keep up.
Highways England has come under fire from MPs in Essex about potholes on the A120 in the county – a main trunk route from the port of Harwich to Stansted Airport.
It’s all too easy for motorists and other road users to vent their spleen on the highways’ authorities when potholes or other road defects appear – and sometimes the lack of maintenance is a clear cause of road problems.
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But all too often the cause of problems is beyond human control – and it might help everyone if people took the trouble to reflect on that before they start flailing around looking for someone to blame.
There are a lot more potholes opening up right now because we were visited by the “Beast from the East” cold blast from Siberia a couple of weeks ago.
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That was no one’s fault. No one sent a plume of chilled Russian air to a Britain waiting for the arrival of spring (not even Vladimir Putin has that power!).
When you get cold weather it is more difficult to get about. And when it goes potholes open up. They can be filled in – but the sheer number you have means they cannot all be done at once.
Some people will get their local potholes filled quickly, some may have to wait. You can’t treat them all at once. What do people want? Every county council employee to stop what they’re doing and fill in potholes? Don’t be ridiculous!
Some things need to be prioritised – and there’s bound to be an element of subjectivity when people are trying to prioritise road repairs.
The road past your house might be your priority – but the council might feel another road used by more vehicles is a higher priority.
One issue that got people hot under the collar last week was the suggestion (vigorously denied by the county) that the Women’s Tour route might be a priority.
Personally I think that makes sense – I’m sure cyclists and spectators don’t want the Suffolk stage of the race to be remembered for a huge pile-up on the approach to Framlingham!
And the fact is the publicity and the visits to Suffolk spurred on by the arrival of the Women’s Tour will probably be worth several millions to the local economy, so isn’t it worth taking some kind of action to make the riders feel welcome?
There’s also a lot of confusion about who does what with the roads. We still get letters from people complaining that Ipswich council isn’t doing enough to repair potholes – we’ve even had someone running a campaign trying to get the borough to stop rebuilding the Cornhill and put the money into road repairs.
I’m sorry but SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ROADS. Ipswich Council had its contract to manage the town’s roads cancelled by the county years ago.
Borough leaders aren’t happy about that and feel that the county is ignoring some of the roads in the town, particularly those on estates.
They do seem to have a point – some estate roads are very uneven and look very tatty. That might be good to slow down the traffic but it doesn’t do a great deal to foster a sense of civic pride in your home area.
I do hope that when the county does start to use the £21m it is borrowing to resurface roads it doesn’t just concentrate on the pretty rural parts of Suffolk and main roads.
Ipswich estates deserve the chance to have decent roads as well!
But that is for the near future. For the present, the county is right to put most of its efforts into dealing with potholes.
Some may be temporary patching before a road is rebuilt in the summer. Some may be a medium to long-term solution to a problem that has arisen.
But the fact is these potholes are a result of natural physical changes that affect road surfaces. It is not possible to know exactly where potholes will open up or how large they will be – the best that can happen is that they are dealt with as quickly as possible, but that will never be quickly enough for many road users, I suspect.