Britain’s pothole problem is worsening according to new data from the RAC, which says that more than half a million were reported to local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales during 2017, an increase of 44 per cent over the figure two years earlier.
The motoring organisation says the figures are likely to be “the tip of the iceberg” due to the number of road defects that go unreported.
The figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information request made to 212 councils responsible for roads in Britain, to which 161 responses were received, with those councils collectively being notified of 512,270 potholes.
But the RAC says that after extrapolating the figures to include those local authorities that did not reply, the true figure is likely to be just under 675,000.
Outside London, where the number of potholes reported rose 21 per cent from 2015-17, councils in England saw a jump of 55 per cent, while in Wales the increase was 22 per cent and in Scotland just 2 per cent (although a 52 per cent increase when comparing 2017 with 2014).
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes commented: “It is shocking to see the number of reported potholes in Britain has risen by nearly 50 per cent in two years.
“Our own analysis of breakdown data shows the damage suffered by motorists is a constant source of frustration and expense, but the scale of the problem is obviously far greater than the numbers show.
“Perhaps motorists are more inclined to report pothole defects than they were a few years ago, but we believe the sheer size of the increase is further proof the condition of our roads is worsening.”
While the effects of hitting a pothole for a motorist are likely to be at worst a costly repair, for cyclists the consequences can be fatal and we have reported on a number of such cases here on road.cc.
Last year, a coroner issued a Prevention of Future Deaths notice to Surrey County Council following the death of cyclist Ralph Brazier, who was thrown from his bike when he hit the pothole on the A317 in Weybridge.
The barrister representing Mr Brazier’s family at the inquest said that the council appeared to give lesser priority to potholes in cycle lanes than ones on the main carriageway.
Cycling UK’s Fill That Hole app, which enables people to easily report road defects directly to local authorities, has proved extremely popular since its launch several years ago and the charity annually publishes league tables showcasing the councils that provide the most prompt response, and shaming the worst performers.
Mr Lyes highlighted the importance of people reporting potholes directly to local authorities.
He said that the rising number of potholes “means road users are then reliant on authorities finding these potholes in their regular inspections and taking action to fix them which in reality is probably less likely to happen.
“However, when road users report potholes the onus is on the authority concerned to fix them or risk suffering subsequent compensation claims as a result of not doing so.
“For that reason, we urge everyone to report potholes so that motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists and other road users don’t suffer the consequences of poorly maintained road surfaces, whether that’s damage to their vehicles, motorbikes or bicycles, or worse still a collision,” he added.
In his Autumn budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond announced £420 million of additional funding to fix potholes in England and Wales, though trade body the Asphalt Industry Alliance has estimated that it would cost £9.3 billion to return the roads in the two countries to a decent standard.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.