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Pothole Crisis: £1bn needed every year for 10 years to fix roads

Patrick Christys
Mar 26, 2019

Potholes are the bane of any motorist's existence - isn't it amazing that if you don't pay your council tax for a month you get a knock on the door, but when your car ends up in several different pieces due to an unfilled pothole, the council don't cough up the cash?

Your car is now statistically two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown than in 2006, according to the RAC.

Isn't this a national disgrace? You drive around some parts of the UK and you pass holes big enough for Calcutta to be proud of them.

And in the last 12 months, councils in England and Wales repaired 1.86 million potholes in the year to March, a more than 20% increase on the year before.

But a lot of the work these councils are doing is just 'patch and mend' as opposed to long-term solutions.

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The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey found that highway maintenance budgets have increased from an average of £20.6m to £24.5m year-on-year.

And the report concludes that councils would need to spend another £1bn every year for the next 10 years to get England and Wales roadworthy.

The analysis was based on council responses to a survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

AIA chairman Rick Green said: "There are glimmers of hope, but while overall highway maintenance budgets are up, there is still a big discrepancy between the haves and have nots.

"Achieving target conditions on all categories of local roads - those that we all rely on every day - still remains out of reach.

"With the amount needed to bring the local road network up to scratch still approaching £10bn, sustained investment over a longer time frame is needed if we want a local road network that supports enhanced mobility, connectivity and productivity."

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association's transport spokesman, said: "Councils share the frustration of motorists about the state of our local roads and, as this survey shows, fixing our roads is a priority for them.

"Faced with severe financial pressures, councils have managed to spend more on road repairs in the past year in order to fix a pothole every 17 seconds.

"Despite these efforts, it is clear that our roads are deteriorating at a faster rate than can be repaired by councils, with the cost of clearing our alarming national roads repair backlog on the rise and now at almost £10bn."

The RAC said it received 1,714 call-outs between October and December 2018 for problems like damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

These are all commonly caused by potholes. 

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Potholes are a huge problem for all road users and the Government is taking action, providing local authorities with more than £6.6bn for roads maintenance and pothole repair in the six years to 2021.

"In addition, we are trialling new technologies to stop potholes from forming, as well as new ways to repair roads.

"We are now also consulting on increasing the standards of roadworks by utility companies to help keep roads pothole-free for longer."

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