'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 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 204.

    What's frustrating is the time it takes to do the repairs. A stretch near me has a dozen or so holes in a 10 metre length of road. 4 weeks ago it was closed off for someone to take pictures and draw around them. Nothing has happened since then.

    Why not have a team who just go around and fill them in rather than the time and money involved in recording everything before, during and after a repair

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    This isn't a problem is money, it is a problem with management! Go to any other European country, they have better roads.

    Also, it would help if Utilities weren't digger roads up every 5 minutes - That's largely where potholes stem from. Surely they can be incentivised to work together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 120.

    Judging by the number of drivers that pass me at speed , even under speed restricted conditions, they would do less damage if they hit a pothole by reducing speed and actually watching the road ahead and avoid them. And it isn't the council ultimately that pay this compensation - its you and me - the council tax payer. The claimants should have to prove it wasn't their driving to blame.

  • rate this

    Comment number 110.

    Our roads are in a terrible state of disrepair and I certainly do not remember this being a problem historically. And why when potholes are repaired are the seams not sealed with bitumen as used to be the case? It just means they eventually break up again.

    The lack of care undoubtedly reflects our slide into towards being a third-rate nation.


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