The state of Wrexham’s road network came under scrutiny by councillors yesterday – with praise for keeping the roads gritted over the winter period, but strong criticism over potholes and repair works.
Members of the executive board had been asked to approve the revised and updated policies of the Winter Service and Highways Safety Inspection functions.
But the conversation quickly turned to the state of some of Wrexham’s roads, with calls for more action and faster responses when it comes to road repairs.
Glyn Ceiriog councillor Trevor Bates said residents feel “excluded” in his ward and compared the state of some roads to that of a “patchwork quilt of tarmac”.
He continued: “Some roads have not been resurfaced for over 60 years. My problem is I can’t see where the money will come to make any changes for this.
“I’ve been told we need something like £40 million to put the roads in a serviceable state of repair and that was before last winter.”
Cllr Bithell acknowledged that there was a backlog of maintenance and that there needs to be more pressure for funding for North Wales.
Cllr David Kelly, said: “Looking at the carriageway hierarchy and methods of inspection, what needs to be acknowledged is the classifications are very historic.
“We are in a situation where we have B roads that handle little traffic and B road that handle more traffic than some of the A classification in the county borough.
“With the carriageway inspection we employ I think we need to have more regard for volumes of traffic using these routes.”
It was also revealed that Wrexham Council has paid £52,776 to motorists since 2013 on claims over damage to vehicles.
A further breakdown of the figures was provided by finance officer Mark Owen, who said the cost over damage to vehicle claims in 2017/18 was £11,187. This was up slightly on a cost of £7,169 in the previous financial year.
Highways officer, Darren Williams said: “It is unfortunate that we do have highways claims; it is a reflection of a few things.
“The highways network is extremely mature now and in many areas it is showing signs of stress and failure. Trying to maintain that highways in a serviceable nature that everybody would like to see is a task to do.
“Not unlike a lot of authorities across the UK, We are finding our resources are stretched to defend every claim.
“Part of the work in terms of our risk based approach, what we’ve done is we have looked at where had had problems and that is reflected that in how we have drafted a new policy to try and counteract where we are having the highest risks and problems.”
Cllr Paul Roberts called for clarification on how potholes are filled in Wrexham, pointing out the council could be doubling on the work and the cost.
It was explained that a “first time fix” is what the department strive for, however in some instances it is more about making the road safe rather than repairing the road.
Mr Williams added: “We have staff trying to do where appropriate first time fix repairs.
“Part of the balance of maintaining the network and whether we can get away and do a first time fix on a hole or if we need to come back and do more serious work.
“We try to spread the money as far as we can, but sometimes reactive maintenance is the only way we have of managing the network.”
There was also praise for efforts of the environment department over the winter period, with several councillors thanking the work of council staff at the tail end of 2017 and the start of this year.
Cllr Bithell said: “Members will recall last winter with the ‘Beast from the East” and one of the worst winters we have experienced for years.
“Officers have reviewed our policy to make sure its more effective. There are no fundamental changes, we are still maintaining our salt stock and we still have three demos we operate from.
“It was apparent last winter when you look at the local economy and Glyn Ceiriog – which suffered severe difficulties – our policy stood the test of time.
“I’d like to thank the street scene department for their work carried out over the winter and I hope this winter is not as adverse.”
Cllr Joan Lowe added that the general public had “appreciated efforts made and nice to see compliments made going back to the department as well.”
Council leader Mark Pritchard said: “All of us elected members could raise concerns of the roads, footpaths and highways infrastructure in our wards.
“I would like to thank Darren, his team and the environment department for all the hard work and effort. Just to touch on the winter maintenance I think they did a fantastic job last year and in previous years.
“Other authorities are criticised and we weren’t. That is a credit to the staff working 24/7 during the winter maintenance when we’re in bed. They keep us safe, the highways safe and keep Wrexham open for business.
“The bluntness is we don’t have enough money to continually invest in the roads. We have a £40 million backlog, that tells a story and we have to prioritise.
“The only answer is for both governments to put more money into roads and infrastructure. We are losing the battle across the country, not just Wrexham – all over the country infrastructure needs more money.
“We have the Local Development Plan coming up and we are going to build thousands of homes in Wrexham which means more use on the roads. We have to have more money.”