GOOD letters from Sadie Brown (Letters, February 22) and Ian Stewart (Letters, February 23) about potholes in the roads on Skye. I would say they are not alone. Almost everywhere you drive now there seem to be pot holes in the roads, sometimes quite big ones and hard to avoid. It not so much of watching the road ahead, as watching the road surface ahead.

In many instances you can see that the road surface is breaking up, with subsidence and dips developing. Once it gets to that stage, it isn’t a case of filling a pot hole; the whole road surface needs to be planed-off and rebuilt, a slow and expensive business. Major trunk roads are maintained by Transport Scotland, but even on those you can see surfaces breaking up and subsidence, particularly on inside lanes where HGVs drive. However, the vast majority of roads are maintained by councils, who have limited money and higher priorities such as education and social care. The budget for road repairs here in Fife has been substantially reduced in recent years. After years of austerity the roads are now falling to pieces.

Damage to road surfaces is almost entirely caused by HGVs. Apart from weighing 40 or 50 tonnes for the larger articulated lories, they are deliberately designed with hard suspension and very high tyre pressures, to reduce fuel consumption. Compared to a passenger car, an HGV produces hundreds of times more impact damage on the road surface. If the surface develops a slight unevenness or a pothole, it will rapidly deteriorate with this kind of hammering. HGVs are often operated up to 24 hours a day, compared to a private car which spends most of the time parked up.

The big question is, are we paying enough in vehicle licence and fuel duty to keep the roads in a reasonable condition, and is enough of this tax-take being allocated correctly? For an average car, the annual road tax is around £150, and with fuel duty of 58p per litre, the total tax for a private motorist doing 10,000 miles a year would be about £1000, or about £30 billion, for all the UK’s cars and small vans. Surprisingly, the vehicle duty on HGVs seems to be up to £1200 per year, which doesn’t seem anything like enough considering the usage and damage they are doing to road surfaces.

Driving on our roads today, you can see that years of austerity is turning Britain into a third-world country. Seeing a particularly bad road the other day, it reminded me of being in Warsaw in the mid-1980s Communist era when the roads in the city were all potholes and dips. I imagine they are better today. Will we soon have the worst roads in Europe? You don’t get something for nothing. The chickens are coming home to roost. We need to start spending money, not on glamour projects but on everyday infrastructure.

Hugh Walker

I AGREE wholeheartedly with Ian Stewart’s comments (Letters, February 23) and his suggestion that the dreadful road conditions on Skye have reached such a level of seriousness where the Scottish Government should now intervene without any further delay.

No-one learns to drive with the aim of being reduced to a sense of agony at the elation of reaching your destination with your tyres and alloys intact, grateful that the huge potholes which have left the roads of Skye and many other areas akin to a moonscape, haven’t delivered a sizeable bill, along with a puncture – this time.

It was heartening to hear that a senior figure in the council visited the Glendale area on February 22, coming to witness for himself the gravity of the situation and the difficulties faced by residents simply in leaving their homes. However, in an interview with the BBC Alba news programme, An Là, broadcast that same evening, the director of community services, William Gilfillan, stated that they want to prioritise repairs by the roads most used, the A roads followed by the B roads. Only after this would they be looking at "other routes".

It seems to be forgotten that these "other routes" are lifeline links to the main roads of the island and the only connections between remote rural communities. Islanders remain very well aware of the huge task ahead faced by those responsible for fixing the depleted and dangerous surfaces of our roads. We see the scale of what will be involved on a daily basis as the danger of "popping down the road" continues to test drivers.

Easter is now just a matter of weeks away and the island will see visitor numbers and traffic increase vastly within a short time frame. The work currently being undertaken on the Neist Point road is a prime example to demonstrate the problems here. Scheduled to continue for a number of weeks, this work is presumably designed to improve the infrastructure in a place which, during the majority of the season, sees parked cars strung along the roadside like an unruly metal snake. Visitors may well have an excellent surface to drive and park on once they reach the Point, but they must get there first. As things stand, they will have to endure the increasingly ludicrous conditions on the roads which lead there.

Many tourists will feel understandably apprehensive. Only a couple of days ago did I witness someone voice the confusion that the roads weren’t this bad on their last visit here. If you’re a first-time visitor to the island then the confusion will be so much worse, as you wonder how things can appear so different to the glossy images of Skye’s perfect roads, enticing people to travel here. It certainly won’t encourage visitors to stay on the island any longer than it takes to leave.

Sadie Brown
Isle of Skye

I was interested to read the comments from Ian Stewart about the state of the roads on Skye.

I visit every year, and last summer my B&B landlady told us that as she lives some 12 miles along a single-track road, both herself and her neighbours feel themselves "virtual prisoners" in their small village, such is the volume of holiday traffic throughout the season from April to September.

Her own view was that Skye's roads need more than being patched up. The key tourist routes, all of which are well-known, need upgraded to allow approaching traffic to pass safely without the use of lay-bys. It doesn't appear to be too ambitious an expectation given the popularity of Skye and the revenue that tourists to the island brings into both Scotland and the Highlands.

Time to bring Skye roads into the 21st century?

John Scobie