Highways Agency – The Last Ghostly Miner

I had the gross misfortune of commuting along the M62 to Leeds for over 30 years.  As if the costs of motoring were not high enough, the Highways Agency’s attitude to routine maintenance left much to be desired.  So much so that commuters’ cars were being damaged by the appalling condition of the motorway….

Highways Agency
Federated House
London Road

By email to: ha_info@highways.gsi.gov.uk

Dear Customer Relations,

Did you know that in 1954, over 100 coal mines in Yorkshire employed over 150,000 people?

Alas, times have changed. These days, there are probably more people working for the National Union of Mineworkers in Yorkshire than there are digging coal.  As I daydream during my monotonous commute to work each day, I imagine that there is just one ghostly mineworker left – Mick the Mole – digging the last lonely seams…

…right under the M62.

Which, of course, is where you come in.

Mick’s subterranean adventures on the southern extremities of what is left of the once mighty Selby coal field take no heed of what lies directly above his little tunnels.


His excavations travel right under the eastbound and westbound carriageways of your 6-lane trans-Pennine artery – the lifeblood of the North of England economy. Sadly, even though you must have known that the area was riddled with coal seams and as such, that you were building your motorway on the geological equivalent of woodworm, you didn’t see fit to reinforce the carriageway so Mick could continue to use his pick and shovel with impunity.


Your motorway collapses into Mick’s tunnels with monotonous frequency.

One such collapse, just West of the A19 exit at junction 34, was off such depth that it was in danger of developing its own ecosystem. You were even kind enough to cone off the deepest parts of the escarpment to allow evolution to take its course – for two years – yes, TWO YEARS!  Sadlly, I still commute to Leeds every working day and that meant driving over the one remaining open lane across the lost valley which you couldn’t cone off – twice a day for two years!

My car weighs 1,785kg with me at the wheel. If I remembered to slow down before hitting the valley, I would be traveling at, say, 50 miles per hour, or 22.352m/s. So, the momentum with which my car and I would hit the lost valley (P=MxV) would be 39,898kgm/s.  That should mean something to you engineering types.

What it meant to me is that I hit the lost valley, twice a day, with enough force to knock my teeth out.

More significantly, it was also more than enough to completely rearrange the car’s tracking and wheel alignment which in turn, results in spectacularly uneven tyre wear – so it ruins your tyres too.


So, after that lovely day when you finally saw fit to fill in the lost valley, I took my poor battered vehicle to the car hospital and had its tracking and wheel alignment adjusted such that all the wheels were vaguely pointing in the same direction once again. It was too late for my unfortunate tyres however. The outer edges had been scrubbed as smooth as a baby’s bum whilst the inside edge still boasted a deep, healthy tread.  Two new tyres were required.

Oh well, I thought, at least that’s the end of it.

But Mick wasn’t be defeated that easily.

No sooner had you filled in the lost valley West of junction 34, than Mick burrowed his way across the Eastbound carriageway half a mile East of junction 33! There, a depression big enough to hide a JCB has formed in the outside lane which now rivals the lost valley in its car-wrecking potential. The Westbound carriageway is as yet unaffected – I assume that Mick is stuck somewhere under the central reservation – but it is probably just a matter of time. Once again, your solution to this extremely dangerous state of affairs is apparently to pretend that you haven’t noticed.

highways agency tyre
One of my front tyres. Healthy tread on one side, totally shredded on the other due to damaged tracking

So, a few weeks ago, I had to have all the wheel geometry reset again, along with two more new tyres to replace the ones you had shredded (see photo) costing me just shy of £500. Thanks to the Highways Agency, I’m now around £700 out of pocket – allowing for some normal wear and tear on the tyres – and Lost Valley 2 is still there!

That got me wondering just how much unnecessary expense you had caused. A little online research revealed that around 144,000 vehicles use this stretch of motorway every day. To be as conservative as possible, let’s assume that half of this figure is the same people coming home again. Let’s be even more conservative and assume that the same 144,000 people use the road every day of the year. Let’s also hazard a guess that the damage to my car was fairly typical (ignoring the likelihood that some will have suffered broken shock absorbers, cracked alloy wheels, lost exhaust pipes and so on).

So, a very conservatively estimated 72,000 regular users of the road will have suffered an average loss of £700.

That’s £50m.


At least.

I’m sure the guys at Kwik-Fit are eternally grateful for all that extra business but I am not at all happy about paying my part of that ridiculous sum.  I therefore wanted to offer this opportunity for you to reimburse my losses before I take the matter further.

In the meantime, would you please fill in the new lost valley before you cost us mere mortals another £50 million or, much more seriously, before someone loses control and is seriously injured or killed as a result of your failure to do so.


The Highways Agency arranged for the second lost valley to be filled in within a week.  

Whether the two events are connected is anyone’s guess but I suspect that it wasn’t a coincidence. They didn’t offer to pay for my new tyres however. That could have opened the door to £50m in claims and no government agency is going to take that risk.

These days, the name has changed from Highways Agency to Highways England (because highways maintenance has been devolved to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) but you can still report a lost valley on a motorway or a pothole in your street by following this link.

2 thoughts on “Highways Agency – The Last Ghostly Miner”

  1. I’m glad you mentioned the potential for fatalities on the lost valleys. I’m a biker going between Eggborough and Howden on the 62, and the depressions are lethal.

    • Indeed. There may be humour in the letter but it’s a genuinely serious issue. There is very real risk to road users, not just their vehicles and it much be must worse on two wheels!


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