HIGHWAY bosses say a change of strategy on repairing rural roads across North Yorkshire is helping to combat the nightmare of potholes for motorists.

Up to £44m is being invested in a major campaign to improve the state of rural roads over the next five years. With ongoing maintenance since 2014 the county council’s highways have reported improvements in up to 12 per cent of country roads.

North Yorkshire has one of the longest road networks in England, with over 9,000 kilometres of carriageway, including more than 4,800 kilometres classed as category four lesser used roads.

Battered by harsh winters and increased use, the council’s executive committee has been told between £350m and £400m would be needed to bring the whole network up to scratch.

Corporate Director David Bowe said: "The roads are deteriorating all the time.”

But he added: "With the money that has been targeted at the rural roads we can already see the improvement. However it is a drop in the ocean compared to the length of the carriageway.

“We have changed our strategy, so we are focusing on structural patching and surface dressing, this is much more suitable for repairing rural roads, with this we have improved the quality and the quantity of the repairs and we think that it is having a bigger impact on rural roads.”

The work is being done according to a strict criteria on roads linking outlying villages to the main urban centres with essential services including Northallerton, Thirsk, Northallerton, Catterick Garrison and Harrogate and Knaresborough.

One of the main issues is minor rural roads which make up over half the network. They are often tracks which have been continually resurfaced over generations.

“This additional funding for roads is about vital support for economic growth. It maintains our rural but essential road networks and is good preventative practice. Surface dressing improves skid resistance, particularly in wet conditions. It is also about keeping the roads safe,” added Mr Bowe.

Cllr Don Mackenzie, executive member for highways, added: "We are putting more and more money into the upkeep of the highways which is what taxpayers are demanding, to do all that we need to do is impossible."

Complaints and requests for action on the roads to the county council went up in the first quarter of this year with nearly 1,400 calls to the authority to report problems, compared to 1,200 in the same quarter last year. The council has a special service for reporting of potholes on its website at northyorks.gov.uk although they say emergencies should be registered by phone.