2 June 2012

Rural roads will soon be leading only to rack and ruin

These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draws out our miles, and makes them wearisome,
Richard II Act II Scene III

It’s surprising that the state of rural side roads has not become more of an issue. Although many people live in towns, even in counties thought of as rural (see some data in a recent post), they take an interest in the countryside (BBC1’s Countryfile had an audience of over 4 million on 27 May) and they like to make use of it at weekends. A combination of recent hard winters and expenditure cuts on maintenance has led to an alarming rate of deterioration in country roads. Not just in the South West where these photographs were taken, but across the UK, minor roads are now starting to disintegrate. The photographs below show how deep some potholes are:

And on the same road further on, the surface has disappeared altogether:

After the Queen’s Speech (setting out future government legislation) last month, the Guardian reported that:
Aid groups have criticised the UK government for a "missed opportunity" in failing to press ahead with a bill that would enshrine in law plans to spend 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on development aid.
There are moral reasons, and some self-interested ones, for a relatively affluent nation like the UK to spend public money on foreign aid. But the fixation with keeping it shielded from the cuts that any government is going to make over the next few years (see data in another recent post) seems unreasonable in the face of evidence that parts of our own infrastructure are declining towards third-world levels. People who live in the countryside, where public transport is sparse or non-existent, have always had to put up with the high cost of fuel, but roads like these cause additional repair and tyre bills. They also affect the vehicles that provide transport to school and hospital and make the journeys which are necessary if elderly people are to be supported in their own homes.

The UKIP policy on foreign aid is “Make real and rigorous cuts in foreign aid and replace with free trade.” If they were to commit to diverting some foreign aid funding to maintaining rural roads in the UK, it might well help them take further support from the Conservatives in what are traditionally the latter’s safest constituencies.

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