Pledge on cash for roads

A LOCAL councillor has pledged to continue lobbying for more cash to help improve roads used by timber haulage firms, writes Mark Entwistle.

Last week, TheSouthern reported that Scottish Borders Council officials did not feel spending money on a survey to examine how much consideration those roads damaged by timber operations actually get when it comes to local authority spending plans, would be value for money.

However, there is support funding available for such roadworks from central government through the Strategic Timber Transport Fund, but this involves the council match-funding at least 50 per cent of the total cost of any scheme.

However, SBC has been successful in the past in gaining access to this fund, most recently for work in the Ettrick Valley.

And Councillor Vicky Davidson (Selkirkshire, LD), who is a member of the government-funded Timber Transport Forum (TTF) which brings together forestry companies operating in the Borders and SBC roads officers, was quick to stress that the situation was constantly monitored.

“It [TTF] looks at problems caused by timber haulage on various roads, the designation of roads as timber routes, what work may need to be done to upgrade routes before particular forests can be felled – for example strengthening cattlegrids, signage, checking bridges etc – and also oversees applications for funding to the Timber Transport Fund,” she said.

“The B709 from Ramsaycleuch up Ettrick across to Eskdalemuir benefitted from this fund in 2007, when this long route was strengthened, parking places were installed and it was all resurfaced.

“The upper Ettrick road from Ramsaycleuch up to Potburn had a similar treatment last year.

“Both schemes have made an enormous improvement on roads which were becoming extremely unsafe to drive due to sunken sections, potholes and lack of anywhere to go if you met a lorry.

“Over £1million came from the Timber Transport Fund for these two schemes and it has been used to improve roads in several other areas of the Borders.”

Ms Davidson pointed out there is also a local timber transport officer, whose post is funded by the TTF, and who works with haulage companies on local issues.

“There are still concerns about timber wagons on other parts of the valley roads and the Ettrick and Yarrow Community Council continues to pass on concerns,” Ms Davidson added.

“Any specific examples of poor driving are followed up very quickly if reported and the Timber Transport Forum considers any problems emerging on roads which are going to have on-going heavy usage.

“The Ettrick and Yarrow roads will continue to carry a large amount of timber as there are still many forests reaching felling age, and although we have had several good bites of the Timber Transport Fund already, I will continue to lobby for funding for other roads which still need upgraded.”