Ah that’s what I’ve been looking for, an image of a pothole roughly shaped like the Isle of Wight. Research out today, published by Britannia Rescue, claims that there is now one damn pothole for every mile of British road – that’s around 200,000 holes covering an estimated total area of almost 300 sq miles of damaged roadway. And you’ve probably guessed that this is roughly equivalent to the area of the Isle of Wight. But you’d be wrong; incredibly it’s an area twice the size of the IoW! That’s one hell of a hole sitting off the Hamble.
And the problem is getting worse as anyone who drives the roads regularly will know. Based on separate figures released under the Freedom of Information Act almost 1 in 10 of we poor motorists have suffered tyre, wheel and suspension damage or worse in the last 12 months, an increase of 79% from 2011/12. That has resulted in nearly 33,000 claims for compensation causing Local Authorities to fork out £2.5m to claimants in the last year alone. Given that the average cost of a temporary fix for a pothole is £50 that amount of compensation could have been used instead to repair 50,000 holes or a quarter of the whole problem. Is it just me (and I’m speaking as someone who has had to replace yet another tyre in the last week) or are our priorities a bit out of kilter here?
Did you realise that only around 10% of our annual road tax payments get allocated to maintaining and repairing road surfaces? But what really hacks me off is that I have paid enough in car parking charges in the last 12 months to the traffic nazis within Richmond Borough Council to pay for 4 potholes to be repaired and have I noticed any work on this taking place? Nah. But, as readers to my Pasta Paulie blog will know, they have dug up and repaired virtually the same bit of roadway outside our apartment 4 times to make good repairs carried out by the utilities companies in the same period.
You know what I would do? I’d make use of a secure and willing proportion of the UK’s prison population, which totals around 100,000 people, and forms one of the most under-utilised manpower resources, to be employed by the Local Authorities (under close supervision of course) to do this work. All costs would be covered by the Local Authorities and the involved prisoners could earn privileges or reasonable earnings or reduced sentences for performing a valued contribution back to society.
There are manpower resources and revenues available without bothering the exchequer to sort this problem and yet it continues to be a growing blight on our landscape and infrastructure. It makes you wonder how on earth we led the Industrial revolution, produced geniuses like Newton, Shakespeare, Turner and Brunel, established the greatest Empire the world has ever seen…and yet we can’t fix some holes in the road. Sigh.