A massive operation to repair the worst of the damage on Hampshire's highways in the aftermath of the wettest winter for a century has begun.
Hampshire County Council is reprioritising its highways resources into tackling the worst flood damage, concentrating efforts on emergency defects and safety work.
The full extent of the damage to Hampshire's 5,280 miles of road caused by the winter weather cannot be fully assessed yet as some roads are still submerged, but the County Council has already identified over 300 locations where extensive and costly structural repair work is need. This includes roads that have been underwater and the small rural roads used as diversions.
The repair bill has already been estimated at up to £36m, and this figure is expected to rise once water levels reduce enough to inspect flooded roads and check on the damage to river bridges and structures.
Councillor Seán Woodward, Executive Member for Economy, Transport and Environment said: "The extent of the damage is significant, with an initial estimate of costs up to £36m needed for repairs, and this cost does not include flood alleviation schemes, such as those proposed for Hambledon."
'Pothole Buster' signs will be appearing on Hampshire roads, and 80 'gangs' of workers - 60% more than usual - will be tackling emergency repairs, deploying extra equipment that has been brought in, such as jetpatcher machines, to make effective and speedy repairs to potholes on rural roads. Warning signs advising drivers to slow down ahead of uneven road surfaces will also be deployed at sites until the Council can get to repair them, and motorists are advised to take heed of these and drive appropriately on these damaged carriageways.
As Councillor Woodward explains, all repair work needs to be carefully prioritised.
"We are reprioritising all repairs to the worst affected roads so that we tackle the most serious defects first. These extra gangs, extra equipment and additional signing will be put in place and work will begin immediately on priority areas."
"As well as the 300 locations where the more extensive structural repair work is needed, we also expect that there will be a number of sites where some form of drainage improvements will be needed to avoid future flooding of the road. Additionally, we have yet to assess the damage to bridge structures, which we plan to do using underwater divers once river levels have gone down.
"The proactive planned maintenance programme we have for the coming financial year will also be reprioritised, although the work that was due to start from in the first three months will need to go ahead as planned as time is needed to design and plan the new works programme.
"We are waiting to hear from Government the details of Hampshire's allocation of extra funding announced earlier this week to repair the roads damaged by the winter weather. However with our repair bill running at up to £36m, and the Government's extra funding of around £80m nationally, we are likely to be facing a huge shortfall in funding to get our roads back even to the condition they were in before the flooding. In the meantime, are pressing ahead with safety repairs assessments, works planning and deploying extra gangs and resources to ensure we can keep Hampshire moving."