Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A load of old cobbles... & tarmac

The state of Britain's roads is an unending source of material for journalists and complaining in general, especially after two pretty harsh winters but putting aside the apparently woeful ability of most councils to keep up with their maintenance duties there is another reason why our roads can suffer so much.

A significant number of our roads are the same roads and routes that have existed for centuries. They were never intended to carry the enormous capacity and shear weight of 21st century motor traffic and beneath them are the same cobble setts laid down for horses and carts or simply so that you had something solid to walk on instead of a muddy track.

I'm not a historian & certainly don't know much about when or how our roads and footways were paved. But I do know that from the seat of my bike I get to actually see the roads....and the potholes, undulations, cracks & collapsed drains. Something thats not possible from inside my car or on the bus. It becomes obvious that the massive pothole there and the sunken drain here isn't there because the council is failing abysmally at it's duties. (ok some might be). It's there because n+100 HGV's a day & n+150 Doubledecker buses and god-knows how many vans and cars are pummelling and tearing across a surface that simply can't cope with it.

The solution to potholes isnt more blobs of half-arsed tarmac or bigger council maintenance budgets. It's less heavy volumes of traffic in Town's and Cities.

Next time you're out and about have a look at the road you're using and you might be suprised just how thin and hastily tarmaced alot of our roads are. Peaking out underneath is the real bit of road, the bit built long before the motorcar. 

A better photo than these would have been from around 10 years ago when I remember Ashton Rd in Newton, Hyde was resurfaced. I was amazed at the time to see about a mile of asphalt get steadily skimmed off each day to reveal an entire road of hand-layed setts. Before then it had never even occured to me that the original  pavings were still beneath our 'modern' highways.


  1. I'm old enough to remember the tarmac going down over some of the cobbled streets!

  2. Maybe a few more cobbles would slow the traffic down! (Yep, I am dreaming...)

  3. Have you ever seen the Mam Tor slip?

    There's a few layers of road up there, iirc like sedimentary rock - oddly fascinating, and you do wonder what future generations will make of it.

  4. @ John - Never heard of the Mam Tor slip but now I have I'll be heading there at somepoint in the future. Looks interesting :)

  5. I am also seeing that it's hard to remember the tarmac going down still on some of the cobbled streets. It's a valid reason of heavy traffic in UK roads so defiantly got. Should take serious actions on repairing the roads.