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Caithness News Bulletins November 2003

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Highland Councillors have been advised that £140 million needs to be spent to meet the backlog of work required to bring the area’s roads and bridges up to scratch. £90 million is identified to maintain, repair and upgrade roads and £50 million to strengthen bridges. Members of the Transport, Environmental and Community Services Committee were advised that the overall condition of the  Council's road network, extending to 6,632 kilometres, is deteriorating, with incidence increasing of subsidence, rutting, edge damage, cracking and lack of skid resistance.

To make progress on increasing funding, the Committee agreed that the Service should provide stronger evidence in support of bids for additional road maintenance.  This would be helped by the Scottish Road Maintenance Condition Survey, which has already shown that only three other Councils in Scotland have a higher percentage of their A class roads requiring structural maintenance.

The Service is also to find more cost effective methods of repairing the fabric of the road network and to direct resources towards the highest priority problems and schemes on the basis of need.

Kyle Of Tongue

Bonar Bridge

Members were also told that bridges in need of major refurbishment included the U7L Low Bridge at Glen Gloy; the A 838 Kyle of Tongue; the B 970 Aviemore Rail; the A 837 Lyne and the A 836 at Bonar Bridge.

Failure to establish a more realistic level of funding for bridge management and replacement would result in recommendations for weight restriction or closure of structures carrying Council roads. Without the funding, the bridge and culvert stock would continue to deteriorate to a point where individual structures could not be relied upon to safely carry unrestricted traffic. Bridge failures and emergency road closures would occur. While some restrictions might be proposed in the immediate future, it was expected that significantly more would be required in the coming two or three years.

The Committee agreed that bridge inspections should be undertaken on a rigorous basis, with an annual funding of £200,000 per year. Budget pressures for load assessments and bridge replacements are being referred to the Director of Finance for ongoing submission to the Budget Working Group.

Chairman Councillor Charlie King said: “The point of bringing these reports to committee is to make councillors aware of the extent of the problem and the consequences of not addressing the under-funding.  We know from consulting the public that they consider it a priority that we keep our lifeline roads and bridges safe - and open.”