Predictions of cold winter are bad news for Britain’s local roads
Despite the current above average temperatures, weather forecasters are predicting the coldest winter for eight years. This could prove to be bad news for the local road network.
The Weather Company is predicting Britain’s worst winter since 2010 – 2011 with temperatures falling to -21ºC. Exacta Weather are predicting a colder than average December with widespread snow. Meanwhile, the Met Office also believes that a predicted El Nino warming of the eastern Pacific could result in colder than usual temperatures in December and January.
This is bad news for those highway authorities who have failed to properly maintain their road networks and for the motorists who use them warns the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).
“A cold icy winter will have a detrimental impact upon our roads resulting in more potholes, particularly where local authority highway departments have not carried out proper road maintenance programmes”, warned Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.
Potholes are caused by water or snow freezing in cracks in the road surface. The expansion of ice results in damage and breaking up of the road surface which is made worse by repeated freeze-thaw cycles. Budget constraints mean that many highway authorities are unable to carry out planned, comprehensive maintenance and are forced to adopt an expensive patch-and-mend approach.
Robinson called upon the government to provide local authorities with the necessary assured funding to carry out road maintenance: “Patch-and-mend defies economic logic”, said Robinson. “It costs only £2 m² to surface dress and maintain a road but costs on average £52 m² to repair potholes. Expensive, emergency patch and mend repair of potholes is not a sensible use of highway budgets. A prolonged cold winter with cycles of freezing and thawing will be bad news for vulnerable roads. The government needs to provide the necessary funding to allow local authorities to invest in programmes of planned maintenance and so ensure that their road network is weather resilient”.