Potholes - ‘a national disgrace’

Potholes across Sussex are a problem
Potholes across Sussex are a problem

Decades of under-investment in maintaining the local road network means that potholes have gone from being just a local problem to being a national disgrace.

That’s the message from the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) on the fourth annual National Pothole Day.

“Decades of government under-funding has deprived local councils from having the resources to carry out comprehensive planned maintenance.

“Instead, we have inefficient patch-and-mend of a never-ending pothole plague where hard-pressed councils take one step forward and two steps back,” said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.

“The cumulative impact of the potholes in your local area has significant national social and economic consequences that government would do well to take note off.”

Nationally, according to the 2017 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey produced by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, the lack of investment in road maintenance means that it would cost £12.06 billion and take 13 years to address the backlog of potholes in England and nine years in Wales.

Such is the extent of the problem that although last year local highway authorities repaired 1.7 million potholes – one every 19 seconds – the RAC reported that between January and March 2017 it dealt with a 63% increase in potholed-related breakdowns such as broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers or distorted wheels.

The national cost of these breakdowns is high with the Tax Payers’ Alliance calculating that annually local authorities pay out over £8 million in compensation claims for road-surface related vehicle damage. This is money that councils can ill-afford.

“It is not just the personal cost of potholes, it is also the cost to the national economy,” warns Robinson.

“At a time when post-Brexit, the government wants to show that Britain is open for business the very transport system that carries 97% of our traffic is well below the standard of our chief European competitors.”

The RSTA says that according to the latest World Economic Global Competitiveness Index 2017-18, our road network is rated 27th compared with 7th for France, 8th for Portugal, 15th for Germany and 16th for Spain. Indeed, the standard of the UK’s roads is only just above that of Namibia rated 31st and Rwanda rated 32nd.

“National Pothole Day puts the focus on a local problem that is fast becoming a national disgrace. After years of trying to ignore the extent of the problem the government needs to wake-up and provide real levels of assured funding for local road maintenance,” said Mr Robinson.