Page last updated at 16:53 GMT, Sunday, 16 May 2010 17:53 UK

Pothole misery for drivers and cyclists in Scotland

Pothole on road
Many roads authorities say the harsh winter has caused potholes to appear

By Anne Brown
The Investigation

Scotland's roads are broken and there is not enough money available to repair them all.

City streets and rural roads are equally as bad, with thousands of potholes, many several inches deep and often up to 3ft wide.

Deep ruts and filled-in patches are further evidence the top surface on many roads has disappeared altogether.

Many roads authorities are blaming the harsh winter but road users say the big freeze made a bad situation worse, after years of poor maintenance.

For all road users the current state of the network is frustrating and dangerous, and costing many a lot of money.

Alison Borthwick, who runs Buchlyvie Pottery in Stirlingshire, has had to spend £150 a time for three alloy wheels, damaged when she hit deep potholes.

She suggested that her local council should give priority to road repairs, ahead of the many traffic calming measures they install all over the area.

'Enormous costs'

Recently she watched as yet another was built close to her house, laughing in disbelief as white and red lines were painted in through one side of a pothole and out of the other.

For cyclists the costs can be enormous too.

Riders at the Glasgow Nightingale Cycle Club said they could spend up to £2,000 for a pair of wheels.

Local authorities were usually quite reasonable at paying compensation when a cheap wheel was damaged, they said.

But if expensive wheels were involved councils tried to pass the buck to the utility companies that may have worked on the road, they claimed.

The cyclists also pointed out the danger they were in when trying to avoid the potholes, and having to steer into the traffic.

But it is not just wheels and tyres that get damaged.

According to those who repair vehicles, there has been a huge increase in broken springs and shock absorbers, due to the sophisticated nature of suspension in modern cars.

Mechanics have seen damage to bodywork and chassis, and costs running up to thousands of pounds.

Road users are having to pay for damage caused by potholes

John Maguire, managing director of the Phoenix Car Company at Linwood, said the roads now are in a worse condition than at any time in his life.

His customers spend a great deal of money on sophisticated high-tech machinery and then have to drive on sub-standard roads.

Those who earn their living on the roads are highly critical of the lack of maintenance.

For Phil Flanders, of the Road Haulage Association, the bad conditions are a huge cost to his members in time, money, and customers, and have a major effect on the economy.

Taxi drivers in Glasgow say they have never had to spend so much on repairs, and complain they do not get value for the licence money they pay.

Two groups are responsible for the building and maintenance of the country's roads.

'New standards'

Transport Scotland looks after the trunk roads and motorways - and it is generally agreed they carry out better maintenance than the local authorities who are responsible for the rest.

Their priorities vary greatly.

Some councils, such as Aberdeenshire, are committed to keeping their roads as good as they can.

Councillor Paul Argyle, who chairs the infrastructure committee, said the road network is a huge asset for the council, and as such must be properly maintained.

If they are serious about economic development, he said, then they need good communications because there are simply no alternatives to roads.

It is a different story in Argyll & Bute where, according to Councillor Duncan MacIntyre, there has been little or no investment in the roads for a long time.

His council came 32nd out of 32 in the Annual Roads Conditions Survey.

The utility companies are widely blamed for returning roads to a much lower standard than the roads authorities.

But things should get better as the Scottish Road Works Commissioner has set new standards and has the power to impose penalties if these are not adhered to by all those involved in repairing the roads.

The Investigation will be broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland at 0900 BST on Monday.

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