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Warning over £135m cost of bringing Aberdeen roads up to standard over the next 10 years

Roadworks in West North Street, Aberdeen in 2019
Roadworks in West North Street, Aberdeen in 2019

Bringing all of Aberdeen’s roads up to acceptable standards could cost at least £135 million over the next decade, councillors have been warned.

A £13.7m spend to improvement the city’s roads for 2021/22 was signed off on yesterday, with nearly £2.3m of that to used to resurface the carriageways by March.

Nearly another £1.5m is to be spent repairing parts of the former A90 (now the A92 Stonehaven to Blackdog road) and the A96 Aberdeen to Inverurie road, after the council took responsibility for the routes when the AWPR opened.

They are expected to be brought up to standard within the next four years.

In all, around 170 miles of road within Aberdeen is in need of attention after biennial city-wide surveys.

A separate pot of cash worth £5.9m for repairs of potholes was agreed with other council budgets in March.

Road chiefs warned there is a national shortage of materials for road repairs due to some quarries remaining out of action through the summer due to Covid.

A Scottish tracker of all councils, using the road condition index, shows Aberdeen is fourth best in the country, as 28% of roads surveyed in need of attention compared to the average 36%.

The full list of roads expected to be repaired in the coming year includes Hutcheon Street, Virginia Street, North Esplanade West, North Anderson Drive, King Street, the Six Roads Roundabout, King George VI Bridge roundabout and North Deeside Road.

Another 10 years of work to bring Aberdeen roads up to standard

But members of the city growth and resources committee, who approved the funding, were warned it would be a costly and sustained effort to bring roads up to scratch.

Roadworks on Parkway, Bridge Of Don, Aberdeen in summer 2019
Roadworks on Parkway, Bridge Of Don, Aberdeen in summer 2019

Roads infrastructure manager, Doug Ritchie, warned: “That doesn’t mean to say all our roads are perfect.

“How long repairs take will depend on budget allocation each year.

“But I think it is true to say that most local authorities have quite a considerable backlog of between 10 and 15 years of work outstanding.

“Our current estimation is that we would need similar investment over the next 10 years to bring them up to acceptable standards.”

By comparison, Aberdeenshire Council bosses last year warned it would take more than four centuries to resurface all the local authority’s roads.

Funding approved yesterday by the city council includes 16 different areas for improvement, including more than £1m for safer cycling and walking routes, £600,000 for pavement resurfacing and £230,000 on repairs to bridges.

The biggest single spend will be on £3.1m lighting improvements around Aberdeen, while another £392,000 has been pledged to traffic light and pedestrian crossings.

More than £1.4m will be spent on work to prevent flooding, including improving drainage.

‘Extremely challenging’ conditions risk roads programme slipping behind

Asked whether he was “confident” of being able to deliver the ambitious roads programme, Mr Ritchie added: “It will be extremely challenging.

“We are finding that the housing market is currently on the downturn and the upshot of that is that some contractors still remain in furlough with some of their staff – that includes quarries as well until August and September.

“And throughout the whole country there is an issue with getting materials.

“So yes, we are going to try to get it all finished but it is going to be challenging as we only have this weather window until about the start of November.”

Union Street has been closed for the last year due to the Spaces For People physical distancing work - and the harsh winter hindered roadworks too
Union Street has been closed for the last year due to the Spaces For People physical distancing work – and the harsh winter hindered roadworks too

Due to coronavirus restrictions and the need to overhaul Aberdeen’s roads for the Spaces For People physical distancing measures, the roadworkers were only able to spend £400,000 of the £3m extra councillors had given them in a bid to improve the city’s roads.

In 2018, an extra £10m was committed to improving the roads in the council budget.

Mr Ritchie confirmed £6.6m remained of the funding, which will now be stretched out over an extra year.

£1.7m of the £10m is to be spent next year.

‘No pain, no gain’: council pushes on with drive to improve Aberdeen roads

Conservative councillor Douglas Lumsden, the outgoing committee convener stepping down having been elected to Holyrood, said: “We look forward to seeing the improvements around the city with the capital works programme for roads, pavements and bridges.

“As a council, we forget a lot of the work we ask to be done – such as Spaces For People – is being done by people who already have a list of tasks to do and it’s important to recognise that.”

Huge tailbacks on Wellington Road when West Tullos Road was closed for roadworks in 2018
Huge tailbacks on Wellington Road when West Tullos Road was closed for roadworks in 2018

His vice-convener, Ross Grant, was also full of praise for the city’s road crews.

He said: “I am aware that the rather harsh winter conditions meant that there had to be quite and extensive reappraisal of road conditions in the city.

“That added on to a lot of the work officers and teams usually would have had to do.

“I wish the team all the best of luck in overcoming and delivering this programme.”

Leader of the Independent Alliance group, Marie Boulton, commended the roads crews for “playing a stormer”, considering the harsh winter, pandemic and extra physical distancing work required.

“There are a lot of people who will be very happy with the road repairs we are going to be doing – although we will probably get complaints we are causing tailbacks!

“But you know what? No pain, no gain.”

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