Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

One third of roads in Scotland deemed ‘unacceptable’

Not too long ago, I highlighted the condition of the footpaths around the east end of Glasgow, in particular, along the trenches where cables had been laid for cable TV: Will cable companies be held responsible for winter footpath damage?

At the time, (and without claiming any great insight, foresight, or imagination), I predicted there would soon be a great wailing and moaning about the condition of the road, and not a word would be heard about the footpaths.

Footpath winter damage 06

While I am certainly not spearheading any sort of campaign or crusade regarding the issue of the forgotten footpath, I do note that we now have a report on the roads, and that report claims that more than one-third of Scotland’s road are not in acceptable condition, and that a huge maintenance backlog now exists.

Worse still is the finding of Audit Scotland to the effect that this worsening condition is actually accompanied by an increase in spending on maintenance. Only 63% of roads were deemed to be in acceptable condition. Since 2004, the maintenance backlog has increased from £1.25 billion to £2.25 billion. In 2009/10, £654m was spent on maintaining trunk and local roads, which represents an increase of £32m on spending in 2004/05.

Transport Scotland, which has responsibility for trunk roads such as motorways, said it would fully consider the report’s findings, and added that the Scottish Government was providing local government in Scotland with significant levels of funding, and that local authorities had the freedom and flexibility to allocate the total resources available to them based on local needs and priorities, including road improvements.

There’s no real point in considering what any of the various political party’s spokespersons have said in response to this, because the simple fact is that this is all they will do now, and for years  to come, as the aftermath of the recession and forthcoming spending cuts means that the old expression “Talk is cheap” will come into play.

While there will no doubt much debate about how this abysmal situation can be resolved the simple fact is that since VED (vehicles excise duty), once knows as the ‘Road Fund’ or similar, became a huge earner and was no longer earmarked or ring-fenced for road, it has become nothing more than a Treasury cash-cow, and the roads can go to pot (holes).

This is not a politically motivated thought – whoever is in power would make no material difference – it’s a simple matter of practicality. It has taken decades to create the road network, and to consider rebuilding one-third of it, which in effect is the state we are at now, would take decades.

Add to that the fact that while the remaining two-thirds are perhaps deemed acceptable today, in the decades it will take to repair the currently unacceptable third, that fraction is the same age as broken, bit, and will shortly follow it into unacceptability.

Perhaps they should have a word with the folk that managed the painting of the Forth Bridge – they might learn something.

Auditor General for Scotland appears at Holyrood

Auditor General for Scotland, Robert Black, presented his report to Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee, and opened by revealing that his own car was off the road after hitting a pothole.

Scotland’s roads watchdog reveals car damaged after hitting pothole | Scotland | STV News


Feb 16, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, council | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will cable companies be held responsible for winter footpath damage?

While I’m sure the usual whining will be heard regarding road damage and potholes after the severe winter of 2010/2011 (now described as the coldest for 100 years), as will become clear, that is not the subject of this post. However, for the sake of providing some financial numbers as food for thought for the subject to come, I begin with some tales of winter woes from the roads since they include budget costs.

The severe winter saw the Scottish Government announce an additional £15 million to repair road potholes (and it looks as if Argyll and Bute Council could be holding its hand out most of that alone), three times more than last year’s figure.  COSLA (Convention Of Scottish Local Authorities) noted that councils had already spent their entire winter budget for road maintenance by mid-December 2010, and immediately stated that its members were looking for more. COSLA president Pat Watter featured on BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, suggesting that the cost of pothole repairs could exceed £100 million

For comparison, I spotted an English article on the same subject, where the Local Government Association (LGA) said town halls were to be hit by a £165 million cut in their road maintenance budget. It noted that local authorities had received an extra £100 million over the £871 million Highways Maintenance Budget for 2010/2011, and had repaired more than two million potholes. But went on to note that the additional money would become a £65 million cut from April, and that the budget would continue to fall to £707 million over the following three years.

Footpaths and cable trenches

Some years ago – and I have no idea of the actual date as I do not subscribe to cable – the east end of Glasgow became a virtual building site as the area succumbed to a never ending frenzy of trench digging, when almost every footpath was ripped open to lay cable along its length. The trenches were about 300 millimetres wide, and maybe twice that figure in depth. Watching and dodging the work and mess, I thought it was somewhat variable in quality, and sometimes quite shoddy in places. Material being returned to the trench after the cable was laid did not look properly compacted in a number of places, and I had my doubts about the integrity of the work done in freezing conditions, when some trenches were not topped with tarmac for extended periods. Hot pitch poured along the edge of the filled and topped trenches often looked as if it was just sitting on top of, rather than penetrating and hot-sealing the two edges together.

But what do I know?

Well, I do know that a number of footpaths suffered subsidence in the months following the trenching, and the sight of a contractor turning up to rectify the failure (fill the hole) was not uncommon for a while. Not entirely unexpected in all cases, as it could be anticipated that the work could have disturbed pre-existing voids adjacent to their new work, which covered a large area.

I will also be fair, and mention that the various utility companies; water, gas, electricity, phone etc, have visited over the years, and the footpaths are not pristine.

However, one of the most noticeable failures on the footpath during this severe winter has been the opening up of one side of the cable trenches, and subsidence, also usually to one side, and generally falling toward the road facing side of the trench, which subsequently leads to further damage appearing in that section. This degree of widespread failure has not appeared before, and I’d have been out photographing it if it had.

I did start taking photographs once the weather improved and the thaw cleared the snow, but gave up after the first few as I would never have got where I was going. There damage was nearly continuous is many places, and the proper medium to record it would have been video, to save time.

I kept a few sample images, which I have added below, and will try to remember to revisit the same spots later in the year. Not to see if they have been repaired, which is something I doubt I will find, but to see if the damage has ‘repaired’ itself.

This is not quite the crazy idea it might at first appear to be, as it may be the case that the severe cold has caused extreme contraction of the material, and by the time things heat up in May (or perhaps August to be more realistic), many of these features will close themselves, as if by magic, as the surrounding ground warms and expands.

I’m sure some wits will suggest the footpaths don’t look any different from their usual appearance in the following pics, so you will have to take my word for it that before the first snowfall of December 2010, and the almost immediate plunge to -12°C that followed, they may have looked a bit worm, but did not have the stepped edges visible on the trench cuttings, or the cracked and subsided areas adjacent.

It’s also notable that the cracked kerb edges are not simply down to vehicles driving over them during the freeze, but appear to have been caused by pre-existing stresses within the surface, as the same cracking was seen on many kerbs where I know no traffic has driven over during the freeze, and they were only revealed when the snow melted. Similar cracks were also seen on areas of the footpath where cars pass over them regularly to reach owners’ drives – and the cars had often been snowed into those drives for days, confirmed by the absence of tyre tracks in the snow beneath them.

As for the question posed in the title…

Of course not.

The contractors that dug the trenches might well be gone by now, and there will have been a guarantee period, which will have expired by now, and then there’s the matter of all the other folk that have dug up the footpath and the roadway since the original work was completed and signed off.

The council will pay, as it will for anyone that trips over those hazards, so that means I will be paying – even if I don’t fall over one of those steps.

Oh well – maybe I should go throw myself down on the footpath a few times… and get my moneys’ worth.

Footpath winter damage 01

Footpath winter damage 02

Footpath winter damage 03

Footpath winter damage 04

Footpath winter damage 05

Footpath winter damage 06


I should have known I would come to regret having promised to follow up this original post, and the following months proved how ill-advised this was, but here goes.

As noted, I gave up noting exactly where the pics were taken, simply because there were so many possibilities, but I was still able to watch a few as they were in places I pass daily.

One of the points noted was there was no point in photographing them later, as the consequences were hidden from sight.

Although Glasgow City Council’s web site claims that only salt is distributed, the reality is that grit is thrown on the footpath. The result is that by the time the weather clears, the crushed and powdered grit has filled many of the cracks and openings as the material has been washed into them over the weeks.

Obvious damage still remains, in the form of collapsed ironworks laid into the road and footpath, and the broken and cracked edges of the footpath which subsided toward the road remained, being too large to be filled by grit, or to return to their original position when the ground returned to higher temperatures and expanded.

Quite a lot, but by no means all, of the cracks and seams that opened in the extreme cold of winter 2010/2011 did tend to close up as the ground warmed, but not completely – perhaps grit in the cracks filled some of the space, and prevented proper closure.

It would seem, however, that the first problem I saw was the lesser of the two evils of the cold, and at least partially ‘self-repairs’.

The unexpected discovery was that more damage seems to have been caused by vehicles, especially heavy vehicles, crossing over the edge of the footpath.

Jan 13, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, council, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment


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