Councillor Rob Humby, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment at Hampshire County Council, said: “Following the wettest February since records began, three significant storms, and a month’s worth of rain so far in March, it’s certainly a challenge dealing with the resulting damage on Hampshire’s 5,500 miles of roads. We have additional highways resources deployed all across the county, who are working hard to keep roads clear of water, debris and damage for all who use them - in order to keep Hampshire moving. Our teams are covering a huge range of work, from fixing potholes to cutting back damaged trees on bus routes.
“Our extra work includes re-cutting ‘grips’ between roads and ditches in order to clear water from the roads more quickly, jetting clear blocked highway drains and clearing storm debris from culverts. We have also brought in additional pothole patching machines and deployed extra ‘find-and-fix’ gangs to repair other defects.”
All of this is in addition to the County Council’s routine annual highways maintenance work which includes £10 million annual road resurfacing, bridge repair and drainage improvement programme to make Hampshire more resilient to the effects of extreme weather and heavy traffic.
Councillor Humby continued: “Our situation is compounded by years of underfunding for highways maintenance by successive governments, which has led to a significant decline in the condition of the local road network despite us trying to plug the funding gap from local resources with an extra £10 million each year for our Operation Resilience planned maintenance programme. I believe we do a good job with the funding we have, but the money only goes so far, and the recent wet weather and flooding has added significantly to the damage and deterioration of the road network. The last time flooding hit Hampshire in 2014, it caused an additional £40 million worth of damage to our roads, and all the indications are that this winter will have a similar impact.
“The reality is, that we can only work with what we have, and we must prioritise how we allocate highways work, including sometimes having to carry out temporary repairs to make a road safe, and fixing defects on busier roads first. It can also be difficult in some cases to make an effective permanent repair in such wet conditions where groundwater levels are exceptionally high.
“The County Council has recently committed an extra £5 million from local resources for highways maintenance in the next financial year which we will be using to blitz more potholes and defects with find-and-fix gangs. However, this is a national problem, as reported in the Transport Select Committee’s report into local roads funding last June, where one report estimated that it would take ten years to get local roads back into a reasonable ‘steady state’, and that that a one-time ‘catch up’ to deal with the maintenance backlog would cost £9.8 billion - approximately £70 million per authority in England. On top of that, recent statistics show that the last ten years has seen an increase of an extra 3.6 million cars on the UK’s roads, including heavier and wider SUV type vehicles, not to mention delivery vans and bigger agricultural machinery, all adding to their wear and tear.
Residents can report potholes and defects direct to Hampshire County Council at: www.hants.gov.uk/transport/roadmaintenance/roadproblems