UK pothole problem not set to improve says industry body

Cycling UK says potholes can be a real danger to cyclists.
Cycle wheel in pothole
Cycle wheel in pothole

UK pothole problem not set to improve says industry body

The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey is published today and portrays an uncertain picture for the future of the UK’s local roads.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance’s latest ALARM survey finds funding for local road maintenance is up almost 20 percent from previous years to £24.5 million per authority, and says more potholes were filled in 2018/19, up from 1.53 million the previous year to 1.86 million. 

While on the face of it this might sound like the beginning of the end to Britain’s pothole problems, the AIA’s survey has also found there is a disparity of funding, with some authorities spending more than £90,000 per mile on the local road network, compared to less than £9,000 by others.

“Some local authorities received the equivalent of £90,000 per mile of their individual networks,” said Rick Green, Chairman of the AIA. “A third continue to struggle with reduced budgets, with several having less than £9,000 per mile to maintain their local roads.”

The AIA is concerned the increased number of potholes being filled – equivalent to one every 17 seconds in England and Wales – is not an indication of quality.

“It’s clear from the 29 per cent increase in the number of potholes filled, that much of this [is] for patch and mend. This doesn’t provide value for money, nor will it improve the…resilience of our roads,” said Mr Green.

The estimated one-time cost to bring UK roads back into a “reasonable, steady state” is estimated to be £9.79 billion.

Cyclists, like pedestrians, suffer particularly badly from poor road maintenance, as the outcome is far more likely to involve personal injury.

Paul Tuohy, Cycling UK Chief Executive

The AIA suggests the current pothole problem is not likely to worsen as current funding levels are stemming the decline in the local road networks. However, even with increased investment into local road maintenance, such as the additional £420 million allocated in the November 2018 Budget, the AIA is concerned this will not be enough to maintain local roads and is telling national governments not to “stop now”.

“Cycling UK supports the AIA’s call of ‘don’t stop now’,” said Cycling UK Chief Executive Paul Tuohy. "If the Government wants to maximise the benefits of cycling as a clean and healthy day-to-day transport option, it needs not only to increase funding for road maintenance, but also to devote a greater proportion of it towards the local roads or streets where people make their everyday journeys, to school, to work or the shops.” 

Poor road maintenance is particularly dangerous for cyclists, as Cycling UK research shows.

An extensive Freedom of Information investigation into all UK highway authorities showed motorists on average receive £338.88 per successful claim following damage caused by a pothole. Cyclists however received 25 times the amount, with an average of £8,825.93, indicating a greater risk of personal injury.

“Cyclists, like pedestrians, suffer particularly badly from poor road maintenance, as the outcome is far more likely to involve personal injury,” said Mr Tuohy.

Cycling UK encourages all road users to report potholes via its app Fill That Hole.

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