Council gets more cash to tackle pothole menace

Wigan looks set to get a six-figure cash boost in its battle to keep motorists' journeys running smoothly.

For the council will get a share of more than £2m allocated by the Government to Greater Manchester Combined Authority to keep on top of potholes.

And it is set to get far more than that for road improvement projects and measures to ease congestion from the new National Productivity Investment Fund.

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In total there is a £1.2bn pot nationally for the financial year 2017/18 and also includes £75m which councils can bid for to repair and maintain local infrastructure such as bridges, street lighting and rural roads.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “Roads play a significant part in everyday life linking people with jobs and businesses with customers, which is why this government is investing record amounts improving and maintaining highways across the country to help motorists.

“The funding we have allocated today is focused on relieving congestion and providing important upgrades to ensure our roads are fit for the future - helping to build an economy that works for everyone.”

In a further effort to reduce the number of potholes the Department for Transport will begin a new innovative trial with Thurrock and York Councils which could revolutionise the way potholes are identified and managed.

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A pothole-spotter system, mounted on bin lorries, comprising high-definition cameras, integrated navigation system and intelligent software will be deployed to identify road surface problems before they become potholes.

Details of how the money will be divided up are scant at the minute so Wigan Council was cautious about the announcement.

Mark Tilley, the council’s assistant director of infrastructure and regulatory services, said: “We would welcome any funding to improve the boroughs roads. As the money is for the whole of Greater Manchester we will look at opportunities for us to apply for funding, but it is too early for us to predict how this will support our award winning infrastructure strategy.”

If successful, the system could be rolled out to other areas of the country including Wigan.

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As the Wigan Evening Post reported earlier this month, analysis by the Local Government Association shows the bill for repairing roads in England and Wales could reach £14bn within two years and the organisation says that this could be a “tipping point” for many local authorities struggling to make ends meet. This is several times more than councils’ entire annual revenue spending on highways and transport.

That said Wigan’s roads are these days being trumpeted as among the best in the region, with a large fall in complaints about vehicle damage and road craters due to an increased investment in local repairs.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s total allocation for 2017/18 is £34.2m, of which £24.8m is for highways maintenance block need, just over £2m of which is for the Pothole Action Fund and £7.3m is the National Productivity Investment Fund.

Wigan Council received almost half the number of complaints about road surface issues in 2014/15 than it did in 2013/14: a fact credited to almost £1m more being spent on repair and upkeep.