IT could take 11 years to clear the backlog of pothole repairs across the region, warned the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), as it called for urgent action to tackle the creaking transport links keeping business in the slow lane.
ICE North East’s State of the Nation Infrastructure 2014 report awards grades on a scale of A to E.
Local transport, strategic transport, flood management and energy were all graded “C”, meaning they require attention.
The other two areas considered, waste management and water, were rated “B”, meaning they are adequate for now.
The report said the condition of local roads remains a cause for concern, and raised fears that the resilience of the North-East’s strategic transport routes had been tested in recent years with adverse weather leaving the region inaccessible.
Last month, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced almost £10m of a £168m national fund was to be awarded to councils in the North-East and North Yorkshire for filling in potholes. Critics said the cash was a drop in the ocean, with £12bn needed to resurface rather than just patch up a problem which blights UK roads, and costs businesses and car owners millions.
Mark Stephenson, North East Chamber of Commerce policy and research manager, highlighted wider issues, when he said: “Successive governments have failed the North-East by not prioritising spending on critical infrastructure projects. While we welcome recent funding, for example for major transport schemes announced in the past twelve months, we have to remember that most of this is well overdue – and in the case of the A1, 50 years overdue.
“For 50 years the North-East has been without a motorway connection and the Government has excluded the region from the proposed High Speed Rail network which could provide a vital service for our economy. The playing field for infrastructure funding must be level. The North-East can generate far more wealth for UK Plc if we are afforded a fair deal on infrastructure to help us deliver wealth and jobs.”
The ICE also warned that while the 2013/14 flood events showcased the effectiveness of the region’s sea defences, they also highlighted the increasing exposure to extreme weather. ICE said we must remain vigilant to the risks of flooding and the need for resilience – and recognise the interdependent relationships between the different infrastructure networks.
Penny Marshall, ICE North East’s regional director said: “These grades show we have made progress on North-East infrastructure, and can be pleased that none of our networks have been rated a D for ‘at risk’ or E for ‘unfit for purpose’. However, we can and need to do better across the board. Infrastructure forms the backbone of our regional economy, sustains our quality of life, and protects people from flooding - yet our assessment has shown that some of our vital networks are in need of attention."