Britain’s roads are in worse condition now than they were 10 years ago, according to a study conducted by the RAC.
The roadside assistance operator undertook a statistical analysis of pothole-related callouts from 2006 to 2016. The data provided ‘strong evidence’ that road surfaces in the UK have deteriorated over the course of a decade, with a 125 per cent increase in vehicle breakdowns reported where poor road surfaces were deemed to be a factor.
Shock to the system
In the 12 months ending in June 2006, pothole-related breakdowns, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels, represented an average of 0.4 per cent of all RAC call-outs. In stark contrast, however, at the end of the 12 months to June 2016 this percentage had risen to 0.9 per cent.
The RAC pothole analysis also shows a striking rise in pothole call-outs in the two years from 2007 to 2009 when the RAC’s share of those breakdowns shot up from 0.5 per cent to 1.1 per cent – a 120 per cent rise. A quarterly high figure of 1.6 per cent was recorded at the end of March 2009 – a percentage not seen again until the first two quarters of 2013 which was no doubt attributable to the snowy winter. This meant that of the RAC’s 753,000 breakdowns that quarter, a worrying 12,000 were pothole-related.
RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “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. 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.”
Local roads ‘not fit for purpose’
According to Bizley, while the UK government should be applauded for recent steps to maintain major A roads and motorways through their Road Investment Strategy, more focus is needed on the local roads in our towns, cities and villages.
“The government has announced plans to create a Roads Fund by ring-fencing vehicle excise duty to fund future development and maintenance of major roads. However, the majority of the damage our members have suffered has been when using local roads.
“It is clear that the effects of insufficient investment over much of the last decade are going to take some considerable time to rectify. Most journeys start or finish on local roads even if the bulk of the mileage is on the strategic road network, or by rail, sea or air. Without local roads that are fit for purpose, the benefits of the government’s bold investment in national transport infrastructure may never be fully realised.”
Bizley adds that the RAC would like to see local roads given the same priority as motorways and treated as a strategic asset.
If your car has been damaged by a pothole and your insurance doesn’t cover it, your ability to claim compensation from the local authority is dependent on whether the pothole has been previously reported, with most councils using the statutory defence that they cannot be held accountable for a defect they are unaware of.
The RAC website contains advice for drivers seeking recompense for a vehicle damaged by a poor road surface.