CAMPAIGN: Help improve the surfaces of our roads

A pothole in London Road, Burgess Hill. Picture: Steve Robards
A pothole in London Road, Burgess Hill. Picture: Steve Robards

It’s National Pothole Day today. But this is very much a local issue too.

The shocking state of many of our roads is something that affects us all. And it’s getting worse.

Mr Pothole, Mark Morrell

Mr Pothole, Mark Morrell

That’s why the Mid Sussex Times is launching a campaign this week to improve the surfaces of our roads.

Whether you’re a driver, cyclist or pedestrian, potholes are a costly and dangerous menace as vehicles attempt to swerve to avoid a looming crater or bounce through them risking uncertain damage or causing an accident.

Many people have been left counting the personal cost of a close encounter with a pothole and felt the frustration of wondering why, when we pay so much in various taxes, the roads which are at the heart of all aspects of daily life are in such bad way.

Of course, potholes are not a new problem and the authorities responsible for tackling them are well aware of the issue – but the dramatic variations in temperature and weather conditions in recent weeks has exacerbated the issue.

Let us be clear, we do not blame our local authorities and councils for the dire state of some of our roads and the purpose of this campaign is not to unfairly criticize them or their highways teams.

In recent years they have had their budgets severely pruned and difficult choices have had to be made.

But enough is enough.

The road network is core infrastructure for the economy, for residents and for the emergency services. It is vital it is improved.

So this is what we are asking of you today.

Send us a photo or video of a pothole that is causing you greatest concern. You can do that by e-mail, by post, or on our social media pages – all the details are above on this page. At the same time include a few details of where it is.

Please copy this information to the council. Make sure that when you are taking a photo you do so safely and do not put yourself at risk from traffic.

For our part, we will be speaking to the council about the pothole concerns that you raise and, working with our sister newspapers across England, will support them in any lobbying of central government for additional funding.

Potholes may sound trivial. They are anything but. They have the potential to cause serious accidents and inflict substantial damage on our vehicles.

Improving our roads is essential to making our communities safer and better places in which to live and work.

Meet ‘Mr Pothole’

Mark Morrell – aka ‘Mr Pothole’ – is a campaigner fighting to get safer roads with removal of potholes across the UK.

He’s been busy this week promoting awareness of National Pothole Day on the crowd-speaking platform Thunderclap, which aims to amplify a message above the ordinary noise of social media networks.

Under the pseudonym of ‘Mr Pothole’ he’s used his knowledge of the legal requirements of highways authorities and road structures to tackle the problem in his home area of Brackley in Northamptonshire, where he serves as deputy mayor.

Mr Morrell says there is no short term solution to the problem of Britain’s disintegrating roads. But he says the finance could be found to repair them by scrapping HS2.

“There is no short term solution. The roads are like this because of decades of under-investment,” he said.

“After this winter the road repair bill is going to have gone up by £1bn meaning it would cost £13bn to bring the road surfaces to a reasonable standard.

“And it would take ten to 15 years to do it because most of the experienced road-makers are in their 50s now. They will need to train up new ones.

“It means a long-term investment programme. Paying for it by scrapping HS2 is the easy answer. At the last count the estimate for building it is £104bn.

“You could put 25 per cent of that into the road system and the other 75 per cent into the NHS and public services that people need. The roads are the government’s achilles heel now. It’s one thing they can’t hide from people.”

Mr Morrell was dubbed Mr Pothole after he took on his county council over potholes in Farthinghoe five years ago.

He now runs Facebook and Twitter pages, is frequently on radio and TV and is currently advising communities in several counties on how to force highways departments to repair roads.

He expressed sympathy for the county councils who he said don’t have the money to do anything.

He criticised Highways England which he said has received £16bn but has failed to make adequate improvements.

He said Highways England was spending too much on developing ‘smart motorways’ and not enough on keeping road surfaces in good shape.