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Official – England's roads getting worse says DfT

4,456 miles of classified road network deemed "poor" by DfT report...

Last week we reported on the estimated £2bn repair bill for Scotland's roads now it has officially been confirmed that England's roads are getting worse too according to new figures published by the Department for Transport in its Road Conditions in England report for 2009/10.

The DfT has been monitoring the condition of England's roads since 2006/07 in which year a baseline average for national road conditions was established judged against that baseline the roads in England got worse last year, it is worth noting 2006/07 does not represent some sort of road-surface nirvana, it's just the point at which they started collating and comparing the nation's roads and the baseline score for that year was set at 100 - last year was the first on which the score has dipped below that level going down to 98.

• In 2009/10 over £3.1 billion was spent by local authorities on maintenance of local roads in England, up from £2.6 billion in 2008/09 (at 2009/10 prices). This funded road surface work on about 8.5 per cent of the local ‘A’ road network and 3.4 per cent of the other roads.

• The Highways Agency spent about £1.3 billion on the maintenance of motorways and trunk ‘A’ roads in 2009/10.

The picture isn't the same everywhere some parts of the country have better roads than others and last year according to the DfT the best roads were to be found in the East Midlands which scored 107 overall while the worst roads were in the South West which plummeted down the league table with it's score dropping 10 points from 99 in 2008/09 to 89 last year.

England's roads are assessed using a measure called the Highway Condition Index (HCI) with data supplied by all the local authority highways departments in England for the roads for which they are responsible, A, B, C and unclassified roads (although figures for the latter are less complete) plus Highways Agency data on the motorway and trunk road network. The local authorities use different, but similar methods to assess road conditions combining a number of different parameters the HCI does not specifically measure number or severity of potholes, but along with other road defects they are accounted for in the way scores are calculated as is skidding resistance. However the report also notes dryly that "In practice the need for maintenance will be less acute in London because average traffic speeds are lower than elsewhere so the risk of skidding is lower."

Regional Scores
North East - 106
North West - 99
Yorkshire & Humberside - 94
East Midlands - 107
West Midlands - 102
East England - 98
London - 106
South East - 95
South West - 89

London and the North East have traditionally topped the road conditions league table and given the sharp drop in the condition of roads in the South West it will be interesting to see what happens to North Eastern roads following that region's particularly harsh winter.

Roads in the East and West Midlands got better last year and there was a marginal overall rise in road conditions in London, although the capital has seen a sharp overall drop in the condition of its roads since the Dft started compiling road condition statistics in part explained by the decline in the condition of its urban A-roads although this is offset by the relatively good condition of the rest of the urban road network. London's roads would appear to be the skiddiest with 49 per cent of them deemed as needing further investigation for their skidding resistance although

Overall, says the DfT, roughly 68 per cent of the classified road network was in ‘good’ condition in 2009/10 and an additional 26 per cent was in ‘reasonable’ condition. Only 6 per cent of the network was in ‘poor’ condition. However, as England's total classified road network is 74,271 miles that still equates to 4456.26 miles of poor roads. Unclassified roads both rural and urban add in another 112,878 miles the DfT estimates that every year 15 per cent or 16,931 miles of these roads are in a condition requiring further investigation to find out if maintenance is needed. However if our reading of the statistics is right there is an urban rural divide herewith the condition of urban unclassified and minor roads being better than rural unclassified and minor roads - however there are more of the latter.

England's best roads are mainly to be found in cities London boroughs and Metropolitan bourough councils have conistently out-performed the average score since the DfT started collating and publishing these stats, while unitary authorities usually scoring around the 100 average, with shire counties consistently scoring below - however the latter also have the longest lengths of rural minor and unclassified roads.'s founder and first editor, nowadays to be found riding a spreadsheet. Tony's journey in cycling media started in 1997 as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - finally handing on the reins in 2021 to Jack Sexty. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes, though he'd like to own a carbon bike one day.

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Simon Walker | 13 years ago

If the North West scored 99% last year compared to 2006 the roads in 2006 must be been really crap to start with.

2011 is a vintage year for pot holes in the South Lakes area. You need a miners lamp to explore some of them.  14

It's particularly bad when it's dark and wet, you just cannot see them coming!

alg | 13 years ago

"4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire" - so that's what John meant?

tom3668 | 13 years ago

Yes Minister!

Tell you what, try driving around the center of Oxford. It's a nightmare!

handlebarcam | 13 years ago

Bernard: This M40 is a very good road.
Hacker: So is the M4. I wonder why we got two really good roads to Oxford, before we got any to Southampton, Dover or Lowestoft or any of the ports?
Bernard: Nearly all our Permanent Secretaries went to Oxford, Minister. And most Oxford Colleges give very good dinners.
Hacker: And the Cabinet let them get away with it?
Bernard: Certainly not, they put their foot down. They said no motorway to take civil servants to dinners in Oxford, unless there was a motorway to take Cabinet Ministers hunting in the Shires. That's why when the M1 was built in the 50s it stopped in the middle of Leicestershire.

antonio | 13 years ago

I'm seventy three and been riding since I was thirteen, never ever have the roads been as bad as this today and we had worse winters more often than of recent years. Is cheap and quick road surfacing the cause? potholes appear almost as soon as they are laid.

dave atkinson | 13 years ago

I rode back from Southampton to Bath yesterday on predominantly unclassified and B roads and there are some real shockers out there. Some are no better than farm tracks at the moment, significantly worse than the last time i rode the same route. thank goodness for vittoria randonneurs  1

Tony Farrelly | 13 years ago

@pward yes, was talking about this last week on the story about all the holes in Scotland's roads. There's a large pothole on my way to work which has been filled in using some sort pre-sized quick repair that has left a number of mini potholes around it's edge that are just the right size for wheel grabbing.

Have also noticed around these parts that even quite severe subsidence in some roads, around drain covers or where old holes weren't as compacted when filled in as the rest of the road substrate is being left when the road surface itself doesn't break.

Tony Farrelly | 13 years ago

@bikeandy yes 'unclassified' is below b-road status, it makes up the biggest proportion of the road total in the UK – I was quite surprised there's so much of it. Add together the length of the classified road network to the unclassified that's estimated to need repair and you come up with a total of 21,387 miles of dodgy roads in the UK.

pward | 13 years ago

As a regular user of to report potholes over the last few months, I have noticed a worrying trend (in Oxfordshire at least) of the deep cavernous ones - in my view, those judged likely to do damage to car tyres, getting priority treatment, whereas dangerously degraded or rough but shallower areas requiring resurfacing or wheel grabbing cracks less than 5cm across are being ignored, even though they are within 5 metres of each other. Anyone else out there seeing this pro-car metric being applied ?

Simon Walker replied to pward | 13 years ago

Yep,come to Cumbria for the off-road on-road adventure ride experience. Bring plenty of spare inner tubes..... you'll need 'em!  40

bikeandy61 | 13 years ago

Is this another case of hiding facts behind terminology?From my experience in N Staffs/SW Cheshire/E Shrops I reckon the 4,400 miles of poor road is just the lengths of all the potholes etc added together.

Does unclassified mean below "B" road status?

I suppose one man's poor is another man's "oo bugger over the bars eating tarmac (or pothole)"!

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