I spotted this attempt at fixing potholes on a main road in Camden on my cycle to work, it is symptomatic of the problem with our roads
‘You can learn a lot about Britain from the state of its roads.’
I wrote that line almost two years ago, lamenting the atrocious state of our pothole-ridden roads and reflecting on the hope that something may be done to give Britain a post-Brexit vote boost.
In the end, the UK’s hoped-for big spend on ‘do-it-now’ infrastructure never happened.
Instead, we got more of the same monetary policy meddling, in the form of a rate cut to 0.25 per cent, an extra dose of quantitative easing, and additional cheap money for banks.
After that summer of the Brexit vote, the UK’s economy didn’t crash, house prices kept rising, unemployment kept falling, and the Chancellor quietly forgot about fixing things and moved on.
But you can still tell a lot about a country by the state of its roads – and Britain’s are now considerably worse than their already parlous state in July 2016.
So what do they tell us?
Our roads are a neat encapsulation of at least two decades of short-termism, a refusal to tackle things that need doing, and outsourcing to corner-cutting private companies that act mainly in their own interest – rather than the public’s.
Government at a national and local level appears to be dominated by those who know the price of everything, the value of nothing, and whose main skill lies in kicking a can down the road.
And those roads are crumbling in front of our eyes.
Craters go unfixed, we’ve even had the suggestion that we may have to abandon some roads, and there’s now talk of forcing utility work to take place under pavements, because people are lighter than cars and this might help deal with the cheap, poor quality patching that’s responsible for a lot of our problems.
This year the state of our roads will be blamed on the Beast from the East, but the excuse that it was cold for a chunk of winter doesn’t really cut the mustard.
Three weeks ago, we went away on our family snowboarding and skiing holiday. I drove from Grenoble airport to the resort of Serre Chevalier via the Col du Lautaret. This busy high mountain pass in the French Alps is kept open all year round and reaches 2,000 metres – and the surface is far superior to our roads in Britain.
The problem is that we have not been fixing our roads – and where we do it is not being done properly.
I stopped to take a photo of such a remarkable piece of Great British handiwork last week, where someone appeared to have just flung a bit of tarmac into some holes on a main road.
It’s not fallen out yet, but I’ll let you know how soon it does.
This map uses data from website FillThatHole.org.uk to show the counties in Britain with the most reported potholes left unfilled, however, the actual number of holes will be much greater as often people do not bother to report many of them due to a lack of action
I do have some sympathy with local councils on potholes.
They have seen budgets slashed and have no money to fix the roads, whereas the Government keeps announcing sums that aren’t big enough to solve the problem – and which you often suspect are recycling old money anyway.
Two things are clear though:
Any political party that says it will properly fix our roads will win a lot of votes.
If we don’t do it imminently the problem will get much worse and we may never be able to fix them – and that will soon become more of an issue, because electric cars are heavy.
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