Drivers are battling a “pothole epidemic” on Sussex’s crumbling roads – with thousands of new cracks and craters reported every week.

Emergency repairs to patch up the problems are set to bring many roads across the county to a near-standstill in the coming months.

Town hall bosses blamed freezing temperatures and wet weather for the crisis and promised millions of pounds would be spent repairing the damage.

But motoring campaigners and one highways boss suggested “serious underinvestment” in the county’s roads was partly to blame.

Roger Williams, head of highways at East Sussex County Council, said his team now took 250 pothole reports every day.

He said: “We have certainly seen an epidemic of potholes in recent weeks. The main problem has been the wet and cold weather, which has made things a lot worse.

“But there has also been a serious underinvestment in our roads over decades.”

Since the crisis began, East Sussex County Council has increased the number of pothole repair gangs from eight to 24 – with 500 holes now repaired every day.

Serious disruption

However, Mr Williams admitted the work was already causing serious disruption to journey times – and warned there would be much more pain to come.

He said: “In an ideal world we would be able to do it differently, perhaps overnight. But it costs 50% more to do it that way.

"Asking people to work at night is more dangerous for them too. I absolutely understand that drivers will be concerned but cost is a major concern and we have to make every pound count.”

However, motoring campaigners said more needed to be done to make the county’s roads “fit for the 21st century”.

'Cuts bite'

Paul Wattes, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “There’s simply not enough money spent on road maintenance.

"When cuts bite, road maintenance is always the first one for the chop and yet it’s crucial to the way we all live our lives and do business.”

On Tuesday, February 19 drivers sat in six-mile tailbacks on the A259 between Newhaven and Peacehaven while crews carried out emergency work.

Next Monday (February 25), the coast road between the Drove roundabout in Newhaven and Bishopstone will be partially closed all day while crews repair the pockmarked surface.

East Sussex county councillor Pat Ost, who represents the area, said the disruption was likely to be “horrendous” – but it could be a price worth paying.

Resurfacing essential

He said: “The important thing is that we resurface the roads rather than just patch them up.”

West Sussex County Council said it continues to do “everything it can” to fix the cracks and trenches formed over the winter months.

Around 1,250 potholes a week are being fixed by six dedicated gangs as part of Operation Watershed, the local authority’s £8.25 million programme to deal with issues caused by flooding.

A spokesman for Brighton and Hove City Council said: “We respond to all pothole reports within 24 hours. If we can’t fill them immediately we make them safe with barriers or similar until we can. Around 100 potholes were reported to us over the Christmas period.”

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