The number of potholes filled in last year in England and Wales rose by a third thanks to government cash aimed at remedying the problem – but a trade association says money spent remedying individual defects leads only to a temporary solution, and that roads will continue to deteriorate unless action is taken.
Other findings of the 20th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) for the 2014/15 financial year include that outside London, the amount paid out in compensation due to potholes doubled last year to £20.2 million, with councils also having to spend on staff to handle those claims.
The trade body says that while road maintenance budgets are growing, one in six English and Welsh roads for which local authorities are responsible – and therefore excluding motorways and major trunk roads – are classed as being in poor condition. It adds that £12.6 billion is needed to restore local roads to a “reasonable condition.”
AIA chairman Alan Mackenzie said: “The government’s emergency funding for pothole and flood repair following last year’s wet winter has clearly contributed to the trends reported in this year’s survey.
“Essentially, the money spent on filling the 2.7 million potholes reported is wasted − it is inefficient and short term in its effectiveness.
“So, while we understand that the Department for Transport is promoting permanent repairs, the point remains that money would be better spent preventing potholes forming in the first place.”
Main findings of the report include:
£12.16 billion – estimated one-time cost to get roads back into reasonable condition.
£93 million per authority – estimated one-time cost in England to get roads back into reasonable condition (£25.2 million in London; £29.4 million in Wales).
2.38 million – number of potholes filled in England (160,000 in London; 130,000 in Wales).
£428 million – annual budget shortfall in England (£39.8 million in London; £80.8 million in Wales).
£3.7 million per authority – annual budget shortfall in England (£1.2 million in London; £3.7 million in Wales).
12 years – to clear backlog in England (15 years in London; 13 years in Wales).
64 years – average time before road is resurfaced in England (31 years in London; 59 years in Wales).
£32.1 million – total cost of road user compensation claims in England (£4.9 million in London; £3.8 million in Wales).
Mr Mackenzie continued: “The £6 billion of funding pledged between 2015 and 2021 is welcome, and hopefully will be confirmed by an incoming government. But the truth is that although it sounds like a big investment, it will only be enough for local authorities to tread water and it will do nothing to tackle the backlog or prevent continuing deterioration.”
“Research has shown that adopting an ‘invest to save’ approach pays dividends − with every planned investment in the road network providing long-term savings of more than twice the value.
“Moving forward, we need planned structural maintenance, resurfacing, strengthening and reconstruction,” he added.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.