29 February 2024
Fixing our roads

As I write, we have just had the brilliant news that Herefordshire has been allocated nearly £102 million from the government's new Local Transport Fund, set up after the cancellation of HS2 Phase 2.

Crucially, this money comes in addition to the £106 million announced in December for local roads resurfacing. It means that, possibly for the first time ever, Herefordshire will have a very large pot of capital funding, some £208 million in total over the next 7-10 years, which can be used both on road repairs and on new infrastructure.

That is a huge win for the county.

However, in the words of the late, great Stan Lee of Marvel Comics, with great power comes great responsibility. Every Herefordian knows that we have a very large local roads network, much of which consists of what were once lanes and dirt tracks which, over the last century or more, have been given a thin covering of tarmac.

It is not at all surprising that this network is structurally vulnerable to potholes. And so it has proved to be.

So fixing our roads, investing in them as a long-term asset, is an obvious priority. But of course there has also been intense public debate over 50 years about whether and where to build new roads in Herefordshire.

Land designations and environmental protections for the Lugg Flats rule out an eastern bypass for the city. But a western bypass is still a clear possibility.

So too is an eastern link road running from Rotherwas up to the Ledbury Road. A Council study some years ago found that such a road would reduce congestion on the Edgar Street roundabout by up to 30 per cent at peak times. That would be a huge improvement.

Let's be clear. None of these new road options will be cheap, and this capital funding will only go so far, with the current backlog of repairs.

But given the huge national concern about carbon emissions, this may be the last chance Herefordshire has to make major improvements to its roads network.

Developing a proper long-term strategy demands careful thought, and a package of measures that, while it may not please everyone, carries broad public support. That means real consultation and engagement by Herefordshire Council as the transport authority.

But this new roads funding should give the county a huge boost, and an unmissable opportunity to build long-term sustainability and economic success. Bravo!