The state of the UK’s roads looks to be improving – but they are still not as good as they were in 2006, if RAC figures for pothole-related callouts are anything to go by.
RAC patrols attended fewer pothole-related breakdowns in the first three months of 2019 than they have in any first quarter for three years, but drivers are still more than twice as likely to break down due to a pothole in 2019 than they were 13 years ago.
In total the RAC dealt with 3276 call-outs for damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels between January and March this year, compared to 5540 during the same period in 2018. While the 3276 figure is nearly double the 1700 seen in both Q3 and Q4 2018, it’s considerably lower than normal for Q1, which usually sees the highest number of these breakdowns due to the freezing winter conditions.
The fall in the number of pothole-related breakdowns has also led to a drop in the Pothole Index, which the RAC describes as its most accurate long-term indicator of the health of the UK’s roads. However, drivers are still 2.3 times more likely to suffer a breakdown from hitting a pothole than they were in 2006, when the data was first analysed in this way. The record high was Q1 2010, when motorists were 3.5 times more likely to breakdown due hitting a pothole than they were in 2006.
The RAC believes the absence of harsh winter weather in much of the country alongside extra funding for councils in the Chancellor’s Budget has prevented further deterioration of road surfaces. These findings concur with data from the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey, which shows that, local authorities’ highway maintenance budgets have increased by almost 20 per cent for the second consecutive year.
However, there’s still a long way to go. The Asphalt Industry Alliance estimate the one-off cost of bringing roads in England and Wales back to a fit-for-purpose state to be a whopping £9.79billion.