Glasgow’s Pothole Problem

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Whether you drive, walk, cycle, or run in Glasgow, you will know about the potholes? Potholes cover not only our roads but also the pavements. Causing a menace to all drivers whether they drive a bus or a car.

In January, a Facebook group, ‘Potholes Make Glasgow,’ held a protest to pressure Glasgow City Council. Over 600 people attended this event in the hope that it would help improve the condition of roads in Glasgow.

Jamie Canavan created the group back in 2021 after he hit a pothole in the Renfrewshire area and was unsuccessful after making a claim to compensate for damages to his car. This prompted him to create a group called ‘Potholes In and Around Glasgow’ in March 2021.

When asked if he believes that the council is listening, he replied: “Glasgow City Council has added the group directly from their main page (Facebook), and there are also employees within the group, so they are seeing what is being said. If they are listening to the people is a totally different story.”

The group is planning to highlight some of the worst roads in Glasgow on social media in the coming weeks.

In the last three years, the Glasgow City Council has paid out only 103 of the 3,582 claims of damage caused to cars by potholes.

Data found by the BBC.

Throughout Scotland, at the same time, there were 13,269 claims made to councils, and 2,057 ended up in monetary compensation: 15.5% of the total.

The AA conducted a study last year on potholes in the UK. They approached each council and asked them for the number of potholes and damage claims that each authority had received since 2018.

Glasgow was seen as the worst for dealing with claims with only 3% of claims receiving compensation; a total of 121 out of 3678 claims.

In this study, strangely Glasgow did not have the highest number of potholes in the reporting period coming in 10th on the council list across the UK.

However, they did receive the most claims and paid out the least.

Ninety councils were asked for data across the whole of the UK, with only 51 responding.

A Glasgow City Council spokesperson said: “All claims are determined on the individual merits of each case and in the context of our policy on road safety inspections and repairs.”

“The policy means we take a risk-assessed approach to road maintenance that prioritises the most dangerous faults while also seeking to ensure repairs are permanent at the first time of asking.”

“Winter is always a challenging time for road conditions due to the impact of frost, snow and rain on the road surface and potholes can appear suddenly at any time.”

“Recent data indicated that over 71% of Glasgow’s roads are in an acceptable condition, which places the city among the best performing roads authorities in Scotland.”

This is backed by the Head of Claims at Admiral, Lorna Connelly, when she said: “Pothole-related claims are 43 percent higher in these months (Jan-March) than average, as road surfaces become unsettled by colder temperatures.”

Potholes found on speed bumps on Ardencraig Road.

There has been a growing sense of dissatisfaction amongst road users over the current state of the roads and the length of time it is taking for compensation.

The head of roads at Glasgow City Council, Andy Mollon  spoke to STV and said that the combination of heavy rain and the freezing temperatures in December as “the worst recipe possible” for potholes to form.

He said: “Ultimately, there will be a lot of potholes out there. We can’t fix them all at the same time, we have to prioritise which ones we have to do first.”

“If we find a defect that requires an immediate response, then we will do an immediate response.”

He has also asked that the public be “patient” as the council tackles the potholes as quickly has they can. 

Cluster of potholes found on Hunters Street.

Recent figures obtained by a freedom of information request from local councils show that the backlog of repairs could accumulate past the hundred million pound mark.

The data indicates that it may take £1.68 billion of Scottish taxpayers’ money to fix the roads to a sufficient standard.

Glasgow City Council’s repair backlog is worth £96 million.

Stephen Nish, a mechanic from the vehicle repair centre Dentzap gave some professional input into the type of damage that is becoming increasingly common for him and his colleagues to see.

He said: “As soon as you go down a pothole you can do damage to your tyre, your wheel, any suspension component or sometimes it just puts your wheel alignment out. And if your wheel alignment is out, it just means that the tyre will be getting chewed up, so you will need to go through tyres a lot sooner than if your alignment is in the correct measurement.”

According to Stephen, this can cost road users up to “thousands of pounds.”

Business is booming for the car repair trade because of the condition of the roads. With it being “fairly common” to see more people coming into the shop for car repairs due to potholes.

Stephen said: “Right now it’s quite bad on the roads and we’re getting a lot of folks going down potholes.”

He also states that he is lucky that he works in a garage and has the materials to sort out his own car issues after he recently went down a pothole.

Pothole on Langside Road

After a record number of 7000 potholes was reported in the first few months of 2023, the council doubled the road repair budget to £12 million.

The extra £6 million is being reallocated from the Neighbourhood Infrastructure Improvement Fund.

The extra funds are expected to aid in repairing and maintaining around 300,000 square meters of road surface in 130 city streets that have been flagged by the council’s road team after assessment that they require attention.

The money will be spent on resurfacing, repairs, and other things such as surface dressing. This helps eliminate cracks on roads that are vulnerable to the heavy-duty impacts of weather and traffic.

The £6 million is set to be returned to the Neighbourhood Infrastructure Improvement Fund in the coming years.

The city convener for neighbourhood services, Ruairi Kelly spoke to the BBC and said that the reassignment of the money is the correct move given the change in road conditions the past months.

He said: “as a road user myself I can see what other motorists and cyclists see and I share their frustration at the increase in the number and size of potholes and the need for often significant repairs to damaged surfaces.”

He said that Glasgow’s roads have some of the highest usage in Scotland, leading to more damage which equals to more repairs.

Scottish Conservative Transport Minister, Graham Simpson said that the SNP has been “starving” councils of funds for essential repairs.

He said: “The dire condition of our roads is an extremely serious issue,”

“Far too many local routes across Scotland are scarred with potholes, which damage vehicles and can lead to crashes.”

With the recent rise in pothole claims, I took to the streets of Glasgow documenting some of the worst ones I had spotted. I documented the potholes in six separate locations across Glasgow and reported them to Glasgow City Council.

Of the six potholes, I reported that no improvements have been made to them so far.

Pothole on Cowcaddens Road

However, it should be noted that the reporting process was confusing. When marking the location of a road fault, one must pin a location on a road map that has no defining features of the street, making it almost impossible to pin it to the correct point.

Members of the Facebook group Potholes Make Glasgow face the same issues as me. Jamie Canavan said: “The my Glasgow app is easy to use but a few members of the group have said it is not accurate at pinpointing which pothole is being reported.”

Glasgow City Council was asked for comment, but no comments were forthcoming before the time of publication.

It is not only licensed drivers who are suffering from potholes, but also learners. I spoke to Lynsay Menzies a driving instructor of ‘Lynsay’s Learners’ who believes “potholes are a serious issue for drivers in Glasgow.”

She said: “Students struggle with potholes all the time. A lot of them do not understand the damage that can be caused by driving through a pothole.”

“Potholes definitely make it more difficult for learners, as not only are they trying to learn the rules of the road, control, and safety. They also need to be taught on how to spot and safely avoid potholes which puts more stress on them which can result in dangerous driving.”

She believes that more needs to be done to make the road safer. She believes that the council should be putting more money into potholes and not “repainting lines that are already visible.”

She said: “This would mean roads are potentially being closed or road works and temporary traffic lights being installed. The road could be fixed properly once and not a quick fix twenty times; twenty times for a quick fix is no exaggeration.”

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