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Drivers Using County Roads for Airports Causing ‘Wear and Tear’ Issues

Published on: 22 Dec, 2021
Updated on: 23 Dec, 2021

Poor road surfaces can deter cycling and damage cars. Photo Geograph

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A petition has been launched calling on the government for more money for road repairs to deal with the ‘wear and tear’ of drivers travelling through Surrey for Gatwick and Heathrow Airports.

Cllr Rebecca Paul (SCC, Con, Tadworth, Walton & Kingswood) started a petition in hope of a debate in Parliament about funding from central government for road repairs.

She said, day to day most of the issues she deals with from residents are about the condition of roads, and that rather than spend the four years of her term telling people they couldn’t be fixed because the council didn’t have enough money, she wanted to push for change at central government level.

Cllr Rebecca Paul in Elmbridge

According to campaign figures, Surrey gets just 1.8 per cent of overall funding despite having some of the most heavily used roads in the country.

Current funding is worked out on the basis of the length of the road and does not take into account the amount of traffic using it.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said adding traffic into the calculation could risk money being taken away from roads more in need of repair.

In a 2014 consultation,  63 per cent of local authorities were in favour of excluding traffic volume from calculations.

Cllr Paul, deputy cabinet member for levelling up at Surrey County Council, said that with people travelling to and from Gatwick and Heathrow airports as well as in and out of London, this was an issue that was not just relevant to Surrey residents.

She said: “This is much broader than a Surrey residents’ issue. Our roads are used by a lot of people across the country, and it just feels like the right thing that we get fair funding to ensure that we can deal with that wear and tear.”

Surrey County Council’s capital budget for roads and pavements is £40 million a year, which includes work to repair “uneven pavements and cracked road surfaces”.

The council would not confirm the revenue budget allocated to pothole filling.

Cllr Paul said that residents are reliant on good roads whether they drive, for deliveries or as pedestrians and cyclists and therefore this was an important issue for the climate emergency too.

She said: “If you speak to any cyclist, they are more likely to cycle if they’re not going to end up falling off their bike and into a pothole.

“Improving your roads is one of those basic things you can do that actually has really positive ramifications across a lot of areas.

“People are more likely to cycle if you’ve got better pavements and safer roads, [and] people are more likely to walk along them.”

A DfT spokesperson said: “Traffic volume is one of a number of elements which influence the rate at which our roads deteriorate, alongside things like weather and climate.

“Adding traffic to the funding formula would risk overcomplicating the results, underplaying other important factors, and diverting money away from roads in more need of repair.”

In Surrey, five per cent of roads are in a “poor” condition, compared to 3 per cent nationally and Surrey is the local authority with the fifth-highest number of vehicle miles travelled according to figures from Cllr Paul’s campaign.

The county council’s overall capital highways budget is approximately £79m and the revenue budget is around £32 million. These figures cover areas including trees, gullies, bridges and traffic signals but not transport.

Cllr Paul said: “The council is in a tough position where they don’t have enough money. So they have to really prioritise and they do a great job with the little they get.”

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