The state of Northumberland's roads
Almost 200 miles of Northumberland's minor roads and more than eight miles of its A-roads are in a poor condition, new figures have revealed.
They come from an analysis of eight years of public data from the Department for Transport (DfT), which publishes the percentage of the road network that is considered to be in a poor condition and needs maintenance. Trunk roads managed by Highways England (such as the A1 in Northumberland) are not included.
Earlier this month, the Gazette launched our ongoing Probe into Potholes - in which we aim to raise awareness of the issue and work with Northumberland County Council to help address it. Last week, we reported that the local authority is to approach the Government to ask for more money to fix the roads after the damage caused by the Beast from the East.
The data shows that some three per cent of A-roads in England in 2016-17 were deemed to be in a poor condition, which works out at 549 miles of road.
But in general, the condition of England’s roads in local authority areas has been improving from 2009-10, with only 13 out of 151 local authority areas seeing an increase in the proportion of roads in poor condition from 2009/10 to 2016/17.
In Northumberland, the percentage of A-roads needing maintenance has fluctuated between three and four per cent during that period and the three per cent mark last year meant it was below the national average.
However, the county did surpass the national average when looking at the minor roads, with seven per cent - or 197.7 miles - of the B, C and U-roads requiring maintenance in 2016/17. The average over the eight-year period from 2009/10 is 9.3 per cent.
Around five per cent of all the minor roads in England in 2016-17 were deemed to be in a poor condition. That works out at 8,960 miles of road. Only 10 local authority areas saw an increase in the proportion of roads deemed to be in a poor condition from 2009/10 to 2016/17 - Northumberland saw no change.
Of all England's regions, the North East actually fares the best with the lowest percentage of the road network needing repairs - just over 2.2 per cent. The worst roads are in London - more than 5.5 per cent of the road network needs repairs.
The region did see the lowest public spending on its local roads in England between 2012/13 and 2016/17, although this was still more than Â£1billion. However, when divided by the population, the per head spending on local roads in the North East over that five-year period was higher than in the North West, the East and West Midlands and the South East.
RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: "Local roads across Britain are suffering from years of under-investment, which is why the RAC believes the Government, as a matter of urgency, needs to look at the issue from a long-term point of view. This means identifying a funding strategy to address both prevention and cure, and giving local authorities certainty of funding so they are able to plan ahead.
"We calculate that if the Government was to ring-fence 5p a litre from existing fuel duty revenue, this could provide Â£11.8billion over five years. This would go a long way to fixing our roads as the one-off cost of bringing them back to a fit-for-purpose state has been independently estimated to be in the region of Â£12billion."
A Northumberland County Council spokesman said: "We know how vital our network is and are committed to doing all we can to improving our roads and tackling potholes. Each year, we undertake a major capital investment programme to maintain and improve our highway network, with more than Â£23million being spent in 2017/18.
"The council was awarded an extra Â£930,000 Pothole Action Fund grant for 2017/18 from the Department for Transport and the authority has also agreed to plough in an extra Â£420,000 in contingency funding so that it can improve the condition of the county’s road surfaces.
"However, a combination of sub-zero temperatures, rain and snow this winter, with repeated cycles of freezing and thawing, has taken its toll on the county’s road network and led to a big increase in the number of potholes being identified throughout Northumberland.
"We have always sought to protect roads maintenance from cuts but like areas throughout the country, our roads would clearly benefit from more national funding. We need to get across to government that they must make significant further investment the roads in local-authority areas."