Conor Faughnan: Fix our crumbling roads with cash fleeced from motorists
DUBLIN'S roads are crumbling. In many places they are falling apart, breaking up like bread-crust under our wheels and causing serious and expensive damage to our cars.
If you have hit a pothole recently you are in good company. According to research carried out by AA Insurance recently, an incredible 12pc of Dublin motorists have done damage to their cars by hitting a pothole since the start of the year.
In most cases the problem was minor, such as a puncture, but the AA breakdown service has also called out to cars that had €2,000 or more worth of damage to wheels, tyres and suspensions.
We know why it is happening. The prolonged big freeze weakened road surfaces and potholes started opening up almost as soon as the ice had thawed. This once-in-a-lifetime winter happened twice last year.
Not all the damage was apparent immediately, and as the weather warmed and some rain fell a lot of those road surfaces have simply started coming apart. It is like getting 10 years' worth of wear and tear in the space of a few weeks.
Speed ramps made of red brick have crumbled to red dust. Potholes are so thick on the ground in some places that roads have become a serious hazard. This is bad for cars but it is absolutely lethal for bikes and motorbikes.
Secondary roads are the responsibility of cash-strapped local authorities but that does not mean that central government can just wash its hands of the problem. Despite our money problems we are still committed to building new infrastructure. But it is at least as important to keep our existing roads in workable condition as it is to build new ones.
Normally it is the council's job to maintain the roads, but these are not normal circumstances. It is not reasonable to expect them to magic up money to meet the exceptional need.
Fixing these roads is expensive. In the end it could cost in the region of €150m, right across 26 counties. That sounds steep, but remember that just the extra taxes that have been imposed on petrol in the past couple of years would be more than enough to do the job. Having fleeced the motorist in the past two years it is now payback time.
It also makes financial sense. The cost of not fixing those roads will be higher in the end, both because of our repair bills and because the longer county councils neglect the job, the worse condition those roads will be in.
AA will be pressing this message forcibly on our incoming new government. So many motorists are being affected at such a huge aggregate cost that the Government has a responsibility to make sure that those damaged roads are properly reinstated.
In the meantime, Dublin's unfortunate drivers simply have to be careful. Often your insurance company will treat tyre damage as wear and tear and will not cover it.
It is also very important for us to take extra care with bikes and motorbikes. They often have to swerve suddenly on the broken road surface, and car drivers need to be more vigilant than ever.