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Highland Council to make special case for capital investment

7th March 2018

Highland Council is to make a special case for extra capital investment in the road infrastructure after a winter period which has seen the Highlands battered by some 57 days of severe weather.

Highland Council area is particularly subject to severe winter weather, which has a significant impact on the roads and other infrastructure. In total, 57 Met Office Warnings were issued between 1st October 2017 and 4th March 2018 for Highland (or for part of Highland). Warnings were in place for 47 days in the last 3 month winter period.

The Highland Council covers the largest geographical area of any local authority in the UK, with some 26,484 square km covering a third of Scotland. There are nearly 7,000km of regional roads, 1,700km of footpaths, and 19 inhabited islands along a coastline which stretches for over 4,412km.

The Council is today set to agree a capital programme of £482m over the next 5 years which includes an investment in our existing roads of over £36m.

Councillor Allan Henderson, Chair of the Environment, Development and Infrastructure Committee said: "We have had a long hard winter which has taken its toll on our road infrastructure. Yesterday was the eighth consecutive day of a Met Office Warning and our teams have been hard at work gritting, clearing snow and keeping our roads open.

"After dealing with the winter work, our focus will be turning to fixing the worst of the potholes. Freeze thaw freeze conditions throughout the winter have done considerable damage. This is on top of a 10% decrease in road condition over the last 5 years. Whilst we have identified funds in our capital programme for roads, this will hardly scratch the surface of the hundreds of millions needed to bring our roads up to a better condition.

"We will be making a case to the Scottish Government to provide additional capital funding so that we can really make a difference. The road network in the Highlands is vital to our communities and the roads are busier than ever as our region grows as an international tourist destination."

Leader of the Highland Council, Margaret Davidson said:"Our capital programme has been reduced by 50% and we have to balance competing demands for the limited resources available. It is simply not possible to fund all the things we would like to do. Our proposals seek to do the best we can within our means for the needs of communities right across the Highlands.

"That said, Highland is a special case, with our huge geography and significant aging estate and assets. We will be undertaking a major lobbying campaign to bring in additional Scottish Government capital funding and calling on our regional politicians to actively support this case, as well as colleagues across the chamber, to make sure Highland gets the investment it needs and deserves."

Deputy Leader of the Council, Councillor Alasdair Christie echoed Councillor Davidson's appeal saying: "We have over 200 schools and remote communities dependent on thousands of miles of lifeline routes. Our regional MSPs and MPs are well aware of the conditions in the Highlands and the need for extra investment at national level. We will be asking them to publicly lend their support to our campaign for fair capital funding for our roads and schools in Highland."

The Highland Council is responsible for the largest road network in Scotland which as

at March 2016 comprised of 6,743.8km Carriageway and 1,902km Footways. The asset value, in terms of Gross Replacement Cost, is around £4,632m for Carriageways and £244m for footways. The Carriageway Condition is measured by Road Condition Indicator (RCI) which is a machine based Key Performance Indicator undertaken on a national basis and co-ordinated by SCOTS. The national average for 2016 was 36.7% of roads rated as red or amber; Highland Council's figure was 39.1%. In terms of ranking Highland is ranked 21st out of the 32 Scottish Councils, but the speed at which the roads are deteriorating in Highland is increasing. In 2012 the RCI was 29.3%, so there has been a 10% decrease in road condition over the last 5 years.

The Highland Council has approximately 3,300 road structures (which includes bridges,

culverts and retaining walls). They have an asset replacement value of about £650m. There is a rolling programme of general and principal inspections of structures, and their condition is well known and documented with over 40 having weight or other restrictions.

Highland bridges have an average condition index of 81, this compares poorly against the Scottish average of 85. Fifty bridges have been categorised as poor or very poor requiring significant investment and these have been ranked and prioritised. Monitoring of the bridge stock will continue and this will influence the prioritisation list - but with significant underinvestment it is likely that emergency action and funding will be required. Given the size and condition of our stock, completion of about 30 projects in any five-year period is required to maintain a steady state condition.

The Council estimates that it would need £1.7bn of capital investment over the next 10 years in order to maintain its assets in a steady state condition and create new assets to address demand issues.

The debate on the Capital programme for Highland can be seen today Wednesday 7th March 2018 from 1:00pm at https://highland.public-i.tv/core/portal/home

 

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