Some of Britain’s roads could be closed due to serious damage caused by freezing weather conditions, the AA has told Sky News Online.
A road damaged by potholes in rural Hertfordshire
The situation may be worse than last spring when a spate of potholes led to the Local Government Association successfully lobbying ministers for an extra £100m for essential repairs.
Weather forecasters are warning that the cold snap could return in the next few weeks and this will add to the difficulties on Britain’s road system.
AA spokesman Paul Watters told Sky News: “There could be more (problems) this year.
“Temperatures have been lower and the winter has been longer. The roads could take a beating.
“We could see complete lengths of road failing. This happened in Salisbury last spring. Roads gave up completely. They became undulating.
“There were very uneven surfaces and whole roads broke up.”
This makes them very dangerous and vehicles could be restricted to driving at 20mph, he added.
And he said if roads get very bad then “technically some of them could be closed”.
There are fears of more potholes appearing
He said Britain may find itself in this situation if there are freezing temperatures, then a rapid thaw, heavy rain and then mild temperatures.
He explained that a pothole is a weakness of the road that is aggravated with water expanding and contracting.
There is water under the surface and as the water freezes, it will expand the hole and then crumble it. The water then breaks it open in the thaw and that is when it becomes a pothole.
The more it rains, the more it exposes the surface, and the wet gets down deeper and it makes the pothole bigger. It is known as a freeze-thaw cycle, and traffic use will make it worse.
Workmen pictured repairing potholes
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, recently said: “The situation is already bad, but there is a real possibility this is only the beginning of our problems.
“Given that the financial situation is as bleak as the weather motorists should expect more problems.
“Road maintenance isn’t a sexy subject, but filling in potholes is vital to keeping the country moving and is a priority amongst motorists, freight operators and voters.
“Last year, the Government provided an extra £100m to try and stem the tide of repairs.
“But this year that money won’t conveniently be found down the back of the sofa. Indeed, the regular annual budgets of highways authorities have already been cut.
“And even if another £100m was available it would only be a drop in the ocean when compared with the estimated multi-billion pound cost of dealing with the backlog of work built up over many years.”
We are not even half-way through winter. When we come to March and April, the roads will be pretty shocking.
Matthew Lugg from the UK Roads Liaison Board
Matthew Lugg works for the UK Roads Liaison Board, which advises the Government.
He said the freeze and thaw effect was causing considerable damage to the roads this winter.
He told Sky News Online: “We are not even half-way. When we come to March and April, the roads will be pretty shocking.
“The money for the highway maintenance budget is being cut. The local authorities are going to have a difficult time.”
And a spokesman for the Local Government Association pointed out that the Department for Transport (DfT) will cut funding for road maintenance by 19% over four years.
He said: “Councils have less money to fix roads. With the next cold spell, the problem is not going away.
“The Government gave them £100m last year. This time around there is no promise of extra funding.”
Snow and ice has caused road damage
A DfT spokesperson said: “We know how important it is that local roads are well maintained.
“That is why, despite the need to make in-year budget reductions, we have protected day-to-day funding for local road maintenance this year and will invest £3bn in maintenance over the next four years.
“However, local councils should manage the maintenance of their roads throughout the year and in view of the last two winters we would expect winter maintenance to be a priority for them.
“It is too early to assess whether any exceptional damage has been caused by the recent weather.”