Rise in pothole car damage due to road underinvestment, says RAC

1 Aug 16
A steady increase in pothole-related car damage is evidence of long term underinvestment in the UK’s roads, the RAC has said.

The automobile association made the claim in light of new research it published over the weekend that analysed the number of pothole-related call-outs to its service been 2006 and 2016.

The study compared the percentage share of pothole-related breakdowns to all other types of call-out over the last decade. It revealed a 125% increase from 2006 to 2016 in the proportion of vehicle breakdowns where poor road surfaces were likely to be a contributing factor.

In the year ending in June 2006, pothole-related breakdowns, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels, represented an average 0.4% of all RAC call-outs. In the year ending in June 2016, this percentage had risen to 0.9%.

The data also shows that the number of pothole-related call-outs spiked by 120% from 2007-9, which the authors speculate was a consequence of tighter government spending on road maintenance in the wake of the financial crisis.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “Our analysis paints a very disappointing picture which unequivocally confirms what most road users already know, which is that the condition of our local roads has deteriorated drastically in the last decade.

“This analysis suggests that the quality of the UK’s roads suffered a steady decline from the start of 2007 through to the end of 2009, presumably due to lack of investment in maintenance and resurfacing during worsening economic times.”

He added: “Since then, injections of short-term funding have addressed the immediate aftermath of periods of extreme weather but have not been sufficient to tackle the underlying problem.”

Peter Box, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, agreed councils faced a funding issue.

“Councils face a £12 billion backlog of road repairs which would already take more than a decade to clear. Current funding levels mean councils are only able to keep pace with patching up our roads and filling potholes rather than carrying out more cost-effective and long-term improvements.”

Box said that councils were fixing more potholes that ever before, “one every 15 seconds”, but that local authorities were hamstrung by a huge disparity in funding.

He said: “The government has earmarked more than 40 times less money for local roads, which councils look after, compared to motorways and main roads.

“Long-term and consistent investment in local road maintenance is desperately needed from government to improve road conditions for motorists and cyclists,” he added.

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