Interviews

20/5/14 UK Road Epidemic Could Cost 100 Billion Pounds to Fix

The cycling interest website Wheelie Good Guys (http://wheelie-good-guys.co.uk/) has gained exclusive insight into the campaign of Mr. Pothole (Mark Morrell). The UK campaigner has been made famous by his dedicated work to improve the roads of Britain. The Mr. Pothole campaign has been designed to reverse the current decline of roads in the UK, through the various means Mark uses to raise awareness of the issue.

The idea is to question council’s on their criteria for works and challenge them about those matters. With a substantial lack of funding for pothole repairs and road maintenance in the UK; Mr. Pothole is also asking questions of the government with relation to the inadequate funding being given to solve the rapidly declining infrastructure of one of this country’s key assets.  Mark has previously appeared on Sky News, ITV, Channel5 and the BBC:

“One thing I have learned is that there is no such thing as bad publicity,” Mr. Morrell stated. “The more groups doing work (to help eradicate potholes) the better – it’s a problem that is not going away. No politics, it needs sorting out.”

“I originally thought okay; let’s give it about 6 months; but it (the Mr. Pothole campaign) just went through the roof. It’s just been the most surreal experience ever. I could never have envisioned this when it started out. I began with a small Facebook campaign. After regularly reporting potholes to the police and feeling that this simply wasn’t good enough, I started to think – I shouldn’t have to be doing this.”

Mr. Morrell is based in Brackley, Northamptonshire; and it was here that the campaign begun:

“I started with the Brackley Potholes campaign; where I live. Interest got generated to the local media and the newspapers. It was my idea and I funded it with the simple message – Could you get behind it?”

Social media has played a key role in the success of the campaign so far, providing a platform to raise awareness of it; whilst also generating further interest:

“The establishments don’t like social media. In the old days it was just a little news article – now it’s so much easier to share; and harder to ignore. There’s such a national problem with roads – with the reduction of money spent the interest is growing. With everyone having access to social media, the establishments have to engage on Twitter.”

It was recently estimated that the road epidemic in England & Wales would cost 12 billion pounds to fix. That sum though isn’t even close to being realistic; according to Mark:

“The costs are increasingly being ramped up,” he says. “If you include the whole of the UK and all aspects of our roads it is more like £15-20 billion. If the government do not face up to it soon, in ten years time realistically it’s going to cost 100bn pounds to fix with inflation. I’ve done my own research with relation to Freedom of Information of all the councils’ work and their calculations. I’m always dubious about figures given to me because of vested interests, so I wanted to do the research myself.

“I looked back at parliamentary papers from the past decade or so. There was a recent plan by a Labour minister which stated that the road problems in England & Wales could be solved by 3.75 billion pounds of funding over a ten years. That never happened and the latest government figure is estimated at 12 billion pounds (to solve the problem). How can they justify a new rail link when there are these far more pressing problems in other areas?”

Mark went on to say:

“You can’t argue with the photographic evidence – these days everyone’s a journalist. I got involved and saw that cyclists are really, really vulnerable’, he says. ‘People say that they (cyclists) should see the potholes, but for that you’d (cyclists) have to swerve out into the road. I’ve a great deal of sympathy for cyclists.

“I’ve gone across every council reporting. Some systems are really good. Others were saying its (potholes) been fixed when it hadn’t. If it needed major work they would close it off the system and hand it over to major works –but they don’t say this.’

In a similar vein; Mark states that through talking to bikers he came across the British Bikers Association campaign. The chairman owned a system that Mark told him needed changing. The chairman was going to take it down, but Mark worked with him to develop a new system –  Street Repairs:

“I helped with the design of the new system and came up with Street Repairs. The name of Mr. Pothole was attached; and the beauty of the system is that you can upload a photo; then, once it is published it can be compared with street view”

This resultantly means that the uploaded photo can be compared to street view photographs to see if scheduled work that is supposed to be carried out is actually happening. Mark continues – in reference to the newly designed system:

“It’s been used successfully in claims. The authorities don’t like it. It’s completely transparent. You can nominate to publish a report through social media – Street Repairs has over six and a half thousand followers on Facebook; and 620,000 people were recorded as seeing one post.”

As with Street Repairs; Mark has found that his ‘Mr. Pothole’ name brand now carries serious weight:

“The media have taken me to heart – I make a statement that they can back. The Mr. Pothole tag gives more credibility to any stories. People are giving my name as a backing to certain issues and campaigns’.

The public and the press really have taken Mark to heart. His no-nonsense approach has been a breath of fresh air with relation to a problem that has plagued the UK for years. After a recent appearance in the Channel 5 documentary – Fix Pothole Britain – he was described by a producer as a Politian’s ‘worst nightmare’.

This was backed up by an appearance on Sky News in March; where Mark was given the opportunity to question The Secretary of State for Transport – Patrick McLoughlin. His questions on why there is such a distinct lack of funding to fix potholes were pretty much avoided; whilst blame was shifted onto local councils.

The appearance on Sky means that Mark has now appeared on three of the key national broadcaster’s channels (BBC and ITV are the others). His most notable public appearance however, was perhaps when he took his campaign around the streets of Westminster, London – by tank – to promote awareness of the current state of UK roads:

“The tank was supplied through the guy that supplied for Top Gear and the movie Fast and Furious 6. He believed in the campaign and gave it to me for half price. I planned it myself.”

The campaign reached its year anniversary on 18th May, and Mark admits he could never have imagined a small Facebook group turning into a national phenomenon encompassing Sky News and tanks:

“It was my hobby. Where other people have fishing; I have potholes. I’m lucky to be retired and on a healthy pension. I’m busy. Including the work I do with the Royal British Legion and Town Councillor, it’s more than a full-time job. One day happens in to the next. I could be set for a day off with the wife; then the next thing crops up with the media about radio interviews or filming. I’m so pleased to see the difference it’s making. I can help in ways other than on camera too.

“I never set up initially to help people with claims, but now I offer advice. People come to me and use Mr. Pothole. About 5 percent of claims that need compensation get the money. The rest are unsuccessful or are put off due to ongoing costs. A reasonable basic car claim could be 70 to 90 pounds. People just accept it as they thing it’s not worth pursuing. They have got busy lives – I’ve just tried to help them make it as easy as possible to claim. A simple thanks or acknowledgement is huge to me. Someone recently got back 1300 pounds. That’s a good day for me.

“I’ve recently become a local town councilor after becoming a pain in the back for the local county council. The next target though for me then is the next election. I’m only interested in endorsements not sponsorships. It’s important that people know I’m not doing this for the money. It’s cost me in excess of 2,000 pounds of my own money so far; but you can’t buy the satisfaction it’s brought – every penny has been worth it.

“I’m lucky to be retired and on a reasonable pension. If it all ended tomorrow there have been thousands of potholes repaired, 20 major road works done and hundreds of people who’ve been awarded compensation or have recovered money because of the campaign. You couldn’t buy this experience; it’s been amazing.”

Mark estimates that there are now 6 million more vehicles on the roads in the UK than ten years ago; all paying fuel tax and VAT:

‘That’s 25 billion pounds more funding that’s now generated compared to 2000.”

Wheelie Good Guys supports Mark’s campaign work to improve UK roads and eradicate potholes.

Wheelie Good Guys – seanwheeliegoodguys@gmail.com

SOURCE – http://wheelie-good-guys.co.uk/

Mark Morrell (Mr. Pothole) press contact: press.office@mr-pothole.co.uk