‘Urgent action’ needed to improve Scotland’s roads network

pothole-image-2Scotland’s public spending watchdog has called for urgent action to improve the condition of the country’s road network to improve the economic prosperity and safety of road users.

A new report published today by Audit Scotland said that while sharing roads maintenance services on a regional basis can offer significant benefits, progress in developing this has been “slow” and there is still “no clear plan or timetable” to deliver it in practice.

Audit Scotland said more than a third of council-maintained roads were in need of repairs.

And it said there had been a deterioration in the overall condition of motorways and other trunk roads since 2011. Councils’ spending on road maintenance fell by 14 per cent over the same period.

Audit Scotland said 57 per cent of road users reported that the condition of the carriageways was a major concern.

And it estimated that poor or defective road conditions may have contributed to six fatal, 64 serious and 234 more minor road traffic accidents over the five-year period.

Councils are responsible for the vast majority of Scotland’s 37,000 miles of roads, with Transport Scotland responsible for about 2,200 miles of motorways and key trunk routes.

Audit Scotland said the proportion of council-maintained roads classed as being in acceptable condition had remained constant at about 63 per cent over the four years 2011/12 to 2014/15.

The remaining 37 per cent of roads were split between those which either showed some deterioration that would need planned maintenance to be carried out in the future, or were in such a poor condition that repairs would be needed within the next year.

The report found there was “significant variation” in the condition of council-maintained roads across the country and that current surveys do not always pick up damage to lower road layers.

Audit Scotland said roads authorities, locally and nationally, need to be more innovative, develop robust ways to compare relative efficiency, and engage better with road users.

Accounts Commission chair Douglas Sinclair, said: “The state of our roads is a major concern for the public. Surveys show that they remain dissatisfied, despite these concerns being flagged up in our two previous reports. Their voice needs to be listened to.

“Councils face increasing pressures and challenges but progress in developing a shared services approach for roads has been disappointingly slow. They can and should collaborate much more to secure better value for money.”

Auditor General Caroline Gardner said: “A well-maintained roads network is vital for Scotland’s economic prosperity. We cannot afford to neglect it. What is needed is a longer term view which takes into account both the need for new roads and the proper maintenance of what we have at present.”

Council body COSLA said the findings should be seen as a success in the context of austerity and rising demand for services.

Councillor Stephen Hagan said: “Scotland’s councils engage daily with their communities so they know just how important the state of the roads is to the public. The reality of the situation is that Scotland’s councils have done a good job with less resource in keeping the roads to a decent standard.

“It is clear that some councils, despite the financial challenges, have chosen to invest in road quality while others, for perfectly valid reasons, have chosen to spend scarce resource on other vital services.

“However, simply measuring pounds spent on roads maintenance is a poor proxy measure for quality – something which the report admits. They make clear that other factors, not least remoteness, historic investment patterns and winter weather all play a part in determining local road quality.”

Share icon
Share this article: