Rough ride ahead for Argyll’s roads needing repair

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Argyll and Bute Council is facing a struggle if it is ever to lose its tag as having the most roads in need of repair in Scotland, the council’s chief executive has admitted.

Pippa Milne was reacting to a recent report by Audit Scotland which stated that the area has the highest percentage of roads needing repair in the country.

The report, which said that the council was improving but needed to do more, was discussed at a full council meeting conducted via Skype on Thursday June 30.

And after a councillor said that the watchdog’s mention of the area’s roads network was ‘a standout point’ for him from the report, Ms Milne said that although improvements had taken place, a battle still lay ahead.

Councillor Donnie McMillan said: ‘One thing that came to me was that the roads in Argyll and Bute are the highest in need of repair in Scotland. Is there any reason why they are mentioned there, and how does the council plan to resolve this situation?’

Ms Milne said: ‘This has been an issue we have had for some time – we have been on the bottom of the leader board, but we have been among the fastest improving. Because of the investment made in roads, we have taken some real steps forward. If I can give a layperson’s view, the measurement they make of roads is in the undulation from side to side and up and down.

‘One issue we have is that many of our roads started as tracks and are not fully engineered, so will be steeply inclined. With the current measurements, we will struggle to ever get off the bottom of the leader board. This is one where we need to take a view of what we want to see.

‘We could resurface a road on one of our islands and it could in our view be a very good finish, but it could still score less well than a potholed road in a city.

‘We have made some significant progress, but unfortunately the only real way to make inroads is through significant investment. That is challenging with the budgets and capital we have at our disposal.’

The Audit Scotland report, issued in May, said: “For road classes A, B and C, the council has the highest percentage of roads in need of repair of all councils in Scotland.

Audit Scotland’s 2016 report Maintaining Scotland’s roads notes that the condition of Argyll and Bute’s roads improved between 2011/12 and 2014/15 but that it was not spending enough in 2014/15 to maintain the existing condition. Spending on roads has declined between 2014/15 and 2017/18.

The council has the fifth lowest density of A class roads of all Scottish councils – 0.11 miles per square mile, compared to an average of 0.26 miles. Approximately 23 per cent of Argyll and Bute’s roads are constructed on peat, which means the roads are prone to movement.

Where roads are in need of repair, the council’s strategy is to use surface dressing techniques rather than full reconstruction.

Trunk roads in the area are managed by Transport Scotland and maintained by BEAR Scotland as part of its north west trunk roads unit.