Transport Infrastructure: Devon and Somerset

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall am 4:00 pm ar 23 Ebrill 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Ian Liddell-Grainger Ian Liddell-Grainger Ceidwadwyr, Bridgwater and West Somerset 4:00, 23 Ebrill 2024

I will just reiterate again what I have already said about the number of potholes in Somerset, because obviously the hon. Lady was not listening—but never mind; no change there. I just reiterate for the record that there were 60,000 potholes in 2022.

I have worked with the leader of Somerset county now for 25 years, who covers a major part of the Levels, where we know the roads move all the time because of the peat. It has been a never-ending battle in Somerset to try to stabilise roads that are unstable. The cost of rebuilding those roads after the ’14 floods was simply astronomical, but we cannot not do it. As peat is a natural resource, we cannot pile—we cannot get deep enough—so whatever we do is a problem. Somerset county has spent hugely on roads over many years. I am not complaining; that is the situation. I am saying that the money has to keep going. Unfortunately, as I said, it does not really work.

I was interested to note that on the Devon county website—my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon helped me on this—there is a quite incredible interactive map. I did not know this existed—I know that you will, Sir Gary—but people can actually look up the potholes on their street. If they go to fixmystreet.com, they can look at these maps, find out exactly where their pothole is, and anybody can report it. We can then zone in the counties. Somerset does not have that. I looked at the Somerset website—which has been there for years, by the look of it—which starts off with a highway safety inspection manual. It always worries me when I get that, on any website, because I just know that whatever is behind it will be a worry. I accept that there is a system behind it, but it is not as good as the one I have seen in Devon. I will be urging Somerset county to adopt that system.

I know that the Minister will reply, quite rightly: “We can give what we can give. There is no more.” One of the ways around this is to use technology. I was googling some quite remarkable machines that fill in potholes. They can do the middle, so they can deal with all the pothole types I named earlier—they basically gouge out and redo it. Last night, the Minister was very kindly telling me a little bit about some of these machines. On his recommendation, I actually went away and looked them up, and they are amazing. Maybe—just maybe—Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, for instance, could look at buying some machines together as a collective, and they could then work the three counties. It does not have to be three counties; it could be whatever we want—it could be a region if we so wish, although that would be a bit big. We could use that technology to deal with these holes.