Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Climate change to blame for terrible state of Cambridgeshire roads, county council says





Extreme weather and climate change are being blamed for the state of Cambridgeshire’s roads, with the county council warning that more investment is needed to tackle the problem.

Temperatures dropped as low as -9C during the cold spell at the end of last year - one of the lowest temperatures ever recorded in the county - and there were more sub-zero conditions in January.

Pothole oustide the entrance of ARU on East Road at the top of Bradmore Street. Picture: Keith Heppell. (61704096)
Pothole oustide the entrance of ARU on East Road at the top of Bradmore Street. Picture: Keith Heppell. (61704096)

When such temperatures are followed by rain, a freeze-thaw cycle leads to cracks in the roads. It led to more than 5,000 potholes being reported on Cambridgeshire’s highways and the county council has been struggling to keep up with repairs.

In Mill Road, Cambridge, hairdresser Piero D’Angelico took to planting discarded Christmas trees in some of the holes to highlight the problem, as the Cambridge Independent reported.

Cllr Alex Becket (Lib Dem, Queen Edith’s), chair of the council’s highways and transport committee, said: “We are seeing large defects on our roads which are being compounded by the impact of climate change and extreme weather – particularly in the Fens. This is why we need more investment as we are not getting the funds from government to address these important highway issues.”

Potholes on Cromwell Road. Picture: Piero D'Angelico
Potholes on Cromwell Road. Picture: Piero D'Angelico

Low-lying Fenland roads are particularly impacted by soil conditions, he added.

“Soil-affected roads are those roads where the stability of the road is affected by movement of the soils through wet and dry cycles as the seasons change. The soil the road sits on will become wet in the winter and dry out in the summer.

“Where the soils are very peaty and get very wet, they expand and when they dry out in the summer they shrink. In a ‘normal’ road, the road construction can flex enough for it not to be an issue. Where the expanding and contraction is a lot the road construction can’t flex enough so the road cracks and deforms.

Cllr Alex Beckett
Cllr Alex Beckett

“We saw some of the highest temperatures ever recorded in Cambridgeshire during the exceptional summer of 2022 and this has had a significant impact on these roads. We will continue to do what we can locally with the maintenance on our roads and footpaths.”

Cllr Neil Shailer (Lab, Romsey), vice-chair of the highways and transport committee, added: “In the past, we have spent millions of pounds repairing these roads. However, we are seeing that those roads are deteriorating a lot quicker than we would have expected.

“We are looking at locations across the county, such as Forty Foot, B1040, B1050 Shelford Road and many other roads to get an idea of the size of the problem and this work is being prioritised to be presented to the highways and transport committee in March.

“Many of the soil-affected roads would require major reconstruction which is likely to be a significant cost to the council and may only last up to five years. We are looking at innovative solutions and preparing for what we can do in the meantime, whilst making sure the roads are safe for the public.

“As part of this work, we are looking at both engineering and funding solutions, as well as working with neighbouring authorities about this regional issue, such as Norfolk, Peterborough and Suffolk, and the Department for Transport.”

Potholes on Mill Road near to the junction of Willis Road. Picture: Keith Heppell
Potholes on Mill Road near to the junction of Willis Road. Picture: Keith Heppell

Fen roads are also impacted by lying on embankments. This means during winter when they are wet, the soil pushes outwards, taking the road edges with them. This leads them to crack and fall away at the edges.

In the summer, when the soil dries and cracks, so do the road edges. Efforts made to help such roads flex are now not proving sufficient to handle the combination of freezing winters with intense rainfall and hotter, drier summers, the council says.

The strategy and resources committee agreed budget recommendations last Thursday (January 26) that will be voted on by the full council on February 7. Among the spending plans is a £1million investment in highways services to increase funding for proactive treatment and maintenance of roads, bridges and footpaths.

Pothole outside the entrance of ARU on East Road at the top of Bradmore Street. Picture: Keith Heppell
Pothole outside the entrance of ARU on East Road at the top of Bradmore Street. Picture: Keith Heppell

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport claimed it was taking the problem of potholes seriously.

A DfT spokesperson told the Cambridge Independent: “We are investing more than £5billion from 2020 to 2025 into local highways maintenance – including the Potholes Fund announced at the 2020 Budget. This will fill millions of potholes a year, repair dozens of bridges, and resurface roads up and down the country.”

The DfT said local authorities had the power to decide how it would spend its funding, allocated in a three-year settlement.



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More