New figures suggest Britain’s roads are getting worse, with the RAC attending 20 per cent more pothole-related breakdowns during the last three months of 2019 than it did for the same period the previous year.
Breakdown data released to coincide with the sixth National Pothole Day reveals that RAC patrols attended more than 2000 call-outs for problems such as distorted wheels, broken suspension springs and damaged shock absorbers between October and December – 300 more than in 2018. For the whole of 2019, just shy of 9200 breakdowns were for pothole-related faults. While this was down from 13,000 in 2018 – a year which fell victim to the so-called ‘Beast from the East’ – it still represented 1.1 per cent of all breakdowns attended.
The RAC’s Pothole Index suggests that drivers are currently 1.7 times more likely to break down as a result of pothole-related damage than they were back in 2006, when it first started collecting data. Despite the relatively mild winter experienced in the UK so far, the RAC is concerned that the inevitable arrival of colder conditions in the next few months will likely trigger a widespread outbreak of yet more potholes. In short, the problem looks likely to get worse before it gets better.
Last March, an Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) report estimated that councils would need to spend £1bn a year for 10 years to get Britain’s roads up to scratch.
RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “We might so far be experiencing a milder but wetter winter than in the last couple of years, but our figures clearly show the problem of potholes has not gone away. Our patrols are still attending on average around one pothole-related breakdown every hour of the day.
“From this year, the money raised from vehicle excise duty in England will be ring-fenced to help fund motorways and major A-roads over successive five-year periods. But as yet, there is no similar model for local roads where the vast majority of drivers begin and end their journeys. We believe this could easily be changed by ring-fencing 2p a litre from existing fuel duty revenue to generate £4.7bn of additional funding over five years.
“Pothole-free roads shouldn’t be a ‘nice to have’ in 2020, drivers should surely be able to expect the vast majority of roads they drive on to be of a good standard, especially given they pay around £40bn in motoring-related tax every year.”