Councillors have warned that crumbling Highland roads could become a major cash drain if urgent improvements are not made.
Highland Council’s community services committee heard yesterday that more than a third of the area’s roads are now substandard – and they are deteriorating faster than almost everywhere else in Scotland.
A new report puts the cost of bringing the routes up to scratch at £156million – with £16.25million a year needed just to keep them in their current state.
Committee chairman Councillor Graham MacKenzie warned that the problems could “accelerate” without more urgent attention.
Mr MacKenzie said: “It doesn’t take me to tell you that we are not alone in this situation.
“This happened over the last two or three years, it has been going on for a while.”
A report by the council’s director of community services William Gilfillan said that in the past three years, Highland had the third highest depreciation rate for roads in Scotland – behind only the Borders and Clackmannanshire.
Councillor Andrew Baxter, Fort WIlliam and Ardnamurchan, said the council needed to find the “political will” to invest more in the roads.
He said: “At the moment we are storing up an enormous problem, which will lead to even more problems if we do not deal with it now.”
Councillor Donnie Kerr, Inverness Central, said that the council had to find ways of making repairs more permanent.
He said: “There’s not point filling up holes with chips if it just comes straight back out again.
“We have been putting patches on top of patches on top of patches and that’s not good long term.”
Councillor Richard Greene, Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh, said that drainage improvements could be the answer to prevent potholes.
He said: “Looking at the worst ones in my ward then I would say water and bad weather has a definite effect.
“You see potholes opening up all the time because of frost and water permeation. That can be solved by better drainage and it’s something I would like to see focus on.”