Cityvisitor blog

Potholes cause damage to ‘millions of cars’

It seems potholes are causing damage to ‘millions of cars’ – well this comes as no surprise to me when the roads are littered with big holes and getting increasingly worse.

An article on the BBC website struck a chord with me this week.  It says that over the last two years a third of drivers have suffered damage to their vehicles because of potholes, according to a survey.

A third also rated their local roads as being in poor, very poor or terrible condition.  This was according to the AA/Populus survey of nearly 23,000 drivers.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance is reported as saying that councils may need £10.5bn to get the “crumbling roads” in this country into good condition.  Apparently the government said it had given councils over £3bn to maintain roads.  Mathematics isn’t my strong point, but that’s quite a shortfall.

Just 10% of those taking part in the AA survey said their local roads were good or excellent, with the lowest ratings going to the Yorkshire and Humber region and Scotland.  I live in Yorkshire and can vouch for the shocking condition of our roads: a drive into Leeds is getting treacherous.

Reports of roads in the best condition came from drivers in London, Northern Ireland and Wales, but more than 50% of respondents only rated them as fair there.

A total of 59% of respondents in the north-east of England said road conditions were worse than a year ago, while those stating that roads had improved were largest in London (12%) and Wales (13%).

Scottish AA members were the most likely to report damage to their cars caused by potholes, with 44% saying their vehicles had been damaged.

Edmund King, AA President, said: “Our findings are deeply worrying and show that UK drivers are once again experiencing a bad pothole season after a lull last spring – perhaps with worse to come. The slight let-up in potholes this time last year may have been just a blip in the annual pothole blight that seems to beset us each spring.

“Decades of underfunding by Whitehall, severe winters and recent widespread flooding has left large swathes of our roads in disrepair”

The annual report from the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) highlighted that last year council highways teams mended 2.2 million potholes, which is 500,000 more than the previous year.

In England and Wales 95% of the roads are the responsibilities of the local authorities.

The repairs backlog is getting longer and is now estimated at £10.5bn, with 20% of local roads now classed as being in “poor condition”: this is defined as having five years or under life remaining.

Looking at the responses from 75% of councils in England and Wales, the survey reports that the average English authority was short by £6.2m of what it required to properly maintain its roads: this is up from the 2011 figure of £5.3m.

It also indicated that repair to roads that were damaged by flooding and rainfall last year cost these local authorities about £338m.  The AIA said that local authorities in England, including London, had reported a shortfall in annual budgets that came to £829m.

Councils paid out £32m in compensation to drivers last year whose vehicles were damaged due to potholes: that’s 50% more than 2011.

The Local Government Association, representing over 370 councils throughout England and Wales, warns that if the funding for councils is cut many could find it impossible to stay on top of road repairs.

Chairman of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, Peter Box, said: “Decades of underfunding by Whitehall, severe winters and recent widespread flooding has left large swathes of our roads in disrepair with many councils struggling to move beyond simply patching up a deteriorating network.”

Norman Baker, Local Transport Minister, said: “In December 2012 we announced an extra £215m to help councils get the best out of their road network. This is on top of the additional £200m we gave to councils in March 2011 to repair local roads damaged by the severe winter weather in 2010.

“It is ultimately up to local highway authorities to determine how they prioritise their funding, but we want to help them get the best value for money. That is why we are funding the highways maintenance efficiency programme which helps councils work together to deliver a first-class service to their residents, at the same time as saving money.”

It seems the potholes may be around for a while.  They are becoming increasingly dangerous though and any motorist or cyclist needs to take great care on the roads.  It is not merely the cost of potential damage to vehicles that should be considered, but also to life.


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