Fresh calls for government funding to save crumbling Hampshire roads

ROADS across Hampshire will continue to deteriorate in the coming years without government intervention.

That is the warning from Hampshire County Council which has admitted that delays to road repairs are becoming “noticeable”, writes David George of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

It came in a report from the council’s director of economy, transport and environment, Tim Lawton, which went before Cllr Russell Oppenheimer, the Conservative cabinet member for highways operations.

Hampshire County Council has admitted delays to road repairs are becoming “noticeable” (stock photo)
Hampshire County Council has admitted delays to road repairs are becoming “noticeable” (stock photo)

The council believes that a combination of high demand for roadworks, budget cuts, an HGV driver shortage and the Covid-19 pandemic are all to blame for these “unprecedented” delays.

Motorists are also concerned that the council’s shortcomings will hit their own pockets.

Cllr Oppenheimer said: “There is a very serious situation here because of the cumulative impact of all these issues.

“We all know how important our highways are to communities, businesses and emergency services.”

Cllr Martin Tod, from the opposition Liberal Democrats, added: “We are squeezing as much as we can out of an ever-declining pot.

“Councillors are bearing the brunt of the problems but the government is actively cutting the money available.”

The county council is proposing to reprioritise work that needs to be carried out, with further details due later this year.

However, motorists remain concerned about whether the necessary repairs can even be completed, regardless of the money being there or not.

Eric Appleby, regional organiser of the Hampshire TVR Car Club, said: “One of our guys hit a massive pothole in Hythe a while back and it cost him hundreds of pounds to repair the damage.

“A few hundred quid is the minimum – if a pothole pulls you across towards a ditch, or even towards oncoming traffic, it can cause real danger.

“If the roads get worse, we’ll have to stop driving TVRs and go buy Hummers instead.”

Roadside assistance providers AA and RAC are also worried that residential streets will suffer even more than main roads.

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said: “Arguably, the road network is a council’s largest asset. Without it, many goods and services cannot function, but years of chronic underinvestment means the infrastructure is crumbling.

“While potholes and damaged surfaces cause frustration and breakdowns for car owners, they can be tragically fatal for cyclists and motorcyclists.

“As they take most of the traffic, main roads take the lion’s share of investment. However, many residential streets are in desperate need of resurfacing.

“At present roads are resurfaced once every 83 years, so if it happens where you live you could be forgiven for holding a street party to celebrate as it is a once-in-a-lifetime situation.”

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes added: “In the first three months of this year – during the height of the latest coronavirus lockdown – RAC patrols went to the equivalent of 52 breakdowns every day where poor quality roads were the cause.

“This was an incredible three-fold increase compared to the last three months of 2020, and really shows what a desperate state so many of the country’s roads are in.

“While the colder winter was almost certainly at least partly responsible, we fear that without more long-term, dedicated funding the quality of roads across Hampshire and beyond risks worsening even further.”