A MASSIVE operation to repair the worst of the damage on Hampshire’s highways in the aftermath of the wettest winter for a century has begun – but the county is facing a black hole when it comes to funding the work.

Hampshire County Council is reprioritising its highways resources into tackling the worst flood damage, concentrating efforts on emergency defects and safety work.

The full extent of the damage to Hampshire’s 5,280 miles of road caused by the winter weather cannot be fully assessed yet as some roads are still submerged, but the county council has already identified more than 300 locations where extensive structural repair work is needed.

This includes roads that have been underwater and small rural roads used as diversions.

The repair bill has already been estimated at up to £36million, and this figure is expected to rise once water levels reduce enough to inspect flooded roads and check on the damage to river bridges and structures.

Councillor Seán Wood-ward, executive member for economy, transport and environment at Hampshire County Council said: “The extent of the damage is significant, with an initial estimate of costs up to £36m needed for repairs, and this cost does not include flood alleviation schemes.”

“Pothole Buster” signs will be appearing on Hampshire roads, and 80 ‘gangs’ of workers – 60 per cent more than usual – will be tackling emergency repairs, deploying extra equipment that has been brought in, such as jetpatcher machines, to make effective and speedy repairs to potholes on rural roads.

Cllr Woodward said: “We are reprioritising all repairs to the worst-affected roads so that we tackle the most serious defects first.

“These extra gangs, extra equipment and additional signing will be put in place and work will begin immediately on priority areas.

“As well as the 300 locations where the more extensive structural repair work is needed, we also expect that there will be a number of sites where some form of drainage improvements will be needed to avoid future flooding of the road.

“Additionally, we have yet to assess the damage to bridge structures, which we plan to do using underwater divers once river levels have gone down.

“We are waiting to hear from Government the details of Hampshire’s allocation of extra funding announced last week.

“However, with the Government’s extra funding of around £80m nationally, we are likely to be facing a huge shortfall in funding to get our roads back even to the condition they were in before the flooding.”