'Millions of cars' damaged by potholes

Car passing pothole The survey found local roads rated worst in Scotland and Yorkshire and Humber

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A third of drivers have suffered damage to their vehicles from potholes over the last two years, a survey suggests.

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

Meanwhile, the Asphalt Industry Alliance says councils may need as much as £10.5bn to bring the country's "crumbling roads" into good condition.

The government said it had given councils over £3bn to maintain roads.

Only 10% of those who took part in the AA survey rated their local roads very good or excellent, with the lowest ratings going to Scotland and the Yorkshire and Humber region.

Pothole Councils pay out millions annually to compensate for damage to vehicles

Drivers in Northern Ireland, Wales and London reported roads to be in best condition, but even there more than 50% of respondents only rated them as fair.

In north-east England, 59% of respondents said conditions were worse than a year ago, while those saying the roads had improved were greatest in Wales (13%) and London (12%).

AA members in Scotland were most likely to report pothole damage to their cars, with 44% saying their vehicles had suffered damage.

AA president Edmund King 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."

Repairs backlog

Start Quote

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

End Quote Peter Box Local Government Association

Meanwhile, the annual report from the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) showed that last year council highways teams fixed 2.2 million potholes, 500,000 more than the year before.

Local authorities are responsible for 95% of roads in England and Wales.

However, the backlog in repairs is growing longer, now estimated at £10.5bn, and 20% of local roads are classed as being in "poor condition", which is defined as having five years or less life remaining.

Based on responses from 75% of England and Wales councils, the survey reported the average English authority was £6.2m short of what it needed to properly maintain its roads, up from £5.3m in 2011.

It also showed that repairing roads damaged by last year's flooding rainfall cost these local authorities around £338m. The AIA said local authorities in England, including London, reported a shortfall in their annual budgets totalling £829m.

Last year councils paid £32m in compensation to drivers whose vehicles were damaged by potholes, 50% more than 2011.

Efficiency programme

David Weeks, Asphalt Industry Alliance: "Spend more now to save more in the future"

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, is warning that if councils' funding is cut, many may find it impossible to keep on top of road repairs.

Councillor Peter Box, chair of the LGA's Economy and Transport Board, 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."

Local Transport Minister Norman Baker 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."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Today, I have driven in two cities and through good areas and bad areas. I have noticed the poorer the area, the worse the condition of the road is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    "Do I hear a golden opportunity for the government to introduce a new "pothole tax"? Yes, I said it!"

    And at the same time reintroduce the Cones Hotline on a premium rate number. Trebles all round!

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    We have to pay a lot of tax for our roads and many other things besides. Isn't it about time that our roads were maintained properly? Whenever a pothole is patched up, within weeks another one or two (at least) appear nearby. Surely most of our roads need resurfacing and not just patching! Where do our taxes disappear to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    >To cyclists and motorcyclists a pot hole is more than just a vehicle >damaging nuisance

    Exactly right, motorists are supposed to give cyclists room but rarely do, rule 213 in the highway code. A swerve may be needed to avoid glass or potholes.

    The roads are funded via council tax mostly (not VED) and people do own both bikes and cars. So no "road tax pays for the roads" rubbish please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    We all have to make sure our vehicles are kept in good working order MOT’s etc why then does this not apply to the driving surfaces as these unrepaired surfaces creates as big a danger to motorist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    and why the same men have patched up the same pothole in the road outside my front door 47 times......Ooops! there it goes again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    Why not offer people on unemployment benefit, employment in the roads dept of local authorities thereby reducing in one stroke benefit payments, unemployment, and dangerous roads?

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    They should pay that person to paint lines on the roads, the various councils contractors seem to charge £50k just to open a can of paint.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Even more sickening is the threat to prosecute those who mark the potholes as a protest and warning, as documented at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-dorset-21028162

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    I pay ~80% fuel duty, £115 VED and over £1100 a year council tax. I would rather they fix the roads with this money than translate "How to get council services" leaflets and update town hall signage into multiple languages. Also - don't tell me the pothole I've reported is a 'Severity C' - tell me when it will be fixed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    What I don't understand about mending roads is why six men have to watch the man with the digger doing the work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    Anyone who thinks potholes can be avoided is welcome to join me on my 12 mile commute, half of which is along unclassified, unlit, single-track roads. Before you ask, I do use my lights and drive at an appropriate speed (never know when there will be farm animals loose) but sometimes avoiding one pothole means driving into another and sometimes the entire road width has subsided.

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    Whenever I travel abroad I find myself judging a countries affluence by the condition of infrastructure.

    I travelled around south east Asia for 5 months nearly 10 yrs ago, and I remember thinking, "Wow, I feel sorry for these guys having to use these roads every day,they don't even have cat's-eyes"

    I literally left the ground going over/into a pothole on Putney Bridge on my scooter last week

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Why can't we simply do what they do in China. Give ALL people (male and female) who are registered as unemployed (theres over 2.3million here ) buckets of tarmac or access to road tar and chippings and shome shovels and rakes to fill in all potholes. Instead of waiting years we would have the job completed in a WEEK....just like the Chinese.

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    Our road network reflects how our country is being run by Botch it and Scarper Coalition Ltd

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    We have to suffer potholes so that chavs can have cigarettes, mobile phones, SKY, and a half dozen kids by a variety of short term partners. We have to suffer potholes so that armies of beurocrats can have large salaries to tick boxes and collate statistics.
    We have to suffer potholes so that Al-Queda operating out of Syria can be given supplies to fight Assad and kill and torture the public.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    What we need is a trained group of workers that can repair the roads properley.
    Where can we find a (large) group of people that are being paid by the state that are looking for work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.

    In New Zealand they take care of their roads by having small gangs of four men with a truck and all they need to do minor repairs before they become a major problem.

    It's cheaper, more efficient and causes less disruption, but then preventative maintenance has never been part of UK government policy - it's all crisis management, only fixing things when they've already gone badly wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.

    According to the US GAO (Audit Office), road damage from one 18-wheeler is equivalent to 9600 cars.

    Theres a well researched formula that calculates pressure per axle.

    I realise trucking is already an expensive industry, but I bet they don't pay 9600 x the VED that I pay for a car. We should put heavy goods back on trains...It's what railways are best at.

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    Can the powers that be - explain how the Billions of pounds collected via the "Tax disc" (Road Tax) are spent.
    Certainly the sums of money involved are huge, and even a small percentage of this revenue would resolve repairs and provide new road building funds.
    Why Can't Road Tax be spent on providing a level of infrastructure commensurate with the cost to the motorist ?


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