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Britain’s pothole problem worsening with more than half a million reported in 2017

Figures obtained by RAC show a 44 per cent jump over two years ago

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 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.

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14 comments

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Chris Hayes | 5 years ago
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The UK's pothole problem is a function of the multiple agencies (utilities and their appointed subcontractors) that have the right to dig our roads up for both routine maintenance and emergency repairs.   Apart from asking the question why our utilities are underneath our roads anyway (and not adjacent pavements where possible); their work is clearly of a varying standard, is carried out unsupervised and without quality control - or indeed sanction for poor work.  Further, it is undertaken on an unco-ordinated basis with no communication between said agencies to save cost (to road users).  

First of all, I'd make someone - a single person nationally, and a series of people locally responsible for repairs.   Then I would:  a) enforce co-ordination between agencies to limit disruption to road users (so that routine maintenance and emergency repairs are carried out together where possible - so we don't have one bunch of idiots digging a road up on Monday morning and another bunch turning up to dig 20m down the road on Friday); b) ensure regional road repair czars have the power to fine utilities for poor work - and they use it -  and I mean the utilities, not the subcontractors (these companies are usually just a few blokes with spades and a van; c) all road repair contractors to be Government approved with QUALIFIED contractors - not blokes who just dig up roads and don't put them back; d) to ensure this, all road repair contractors shall be bonded - requiring that they submit a financial bond to the relevant authority guaranteeing the quality of their work (this saves time going through courts to get our money back (and I know some companies will not be able to afford this. I SIMPLY DONT CARE; e) all overnight repair jobs to be covered with bailey-bridge-type metal road sections so the roads can continue to be used; and MASSIVE FINES for companies that ruin our roads - and I mean MASSIVE.  

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spen | 5 years ago
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There are currently 12 council's with a 100% record on the CTC site.  These council's appear to have rejected between 1/4 and 1/2 of all the reports they receive.  Does the reported figure reference all reported holes or only those accepted by council's?

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CXR94Di2 replied to spen | 5 years ago
3 likes
spen wrote:

There are currently 12 council's with a 100% record on the CTC site.  These council's appear to have rejected between 1/4 and 1/2 of all the reports they receive.  Does the reported figure reference to all reported holes or only those accepted by council's?

 

Lincolnshire county council rejected my claim after nearly 5 months.  In the new year they will receive a small claims from Court.

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mike the bike | 5 years ago
1 like

 

About 5 years ago my county council entered into a rather controversial PFI agreement with a highway maintenance company.  It wasn't universally popular with voters at the time but, by any measure, the improvement in our roads has been very significant.  A pothole is now a very occasional nuisance rather than an everyday hazard and other aspects of road design, such as drainage and signage, have also bucked the downward trend.

If our experience is anything to go by other CCs could do worse than follow this example.

 

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stonojnr replied to mike the bike | 5 years ago
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mike the bike wrote:

 

About 5 years ago my county council entered into a rather controversial PFI agreement with a highway maintenance company.  It wasn't universally popular with voters at the time but, by any measure, the improvement in our roads has been very significant.  A pothole is now a very occasional nuisance rather than an everyday hazard and other aspects of road design, such as drainage and signage, have also bucked the downward trend.

If our experience is anything to go by other CCs could do worse than follow this example.

 

if by PFI you mean the likes of the Kier group, then I disagree. Suffolk CC outsourced the roads to them and the roads have been notably left in poorer condition ever since, Suffolk CCs payouts in pothole insurance claims doubled this last year, and theyve had nearly 3 times as many claims to process

As potholes just get left for months after being reported with no action being taken, even assuming they are accepted for corrective work, theres a 3ft wide almost completely circular, layer of tarmac thats been missing since June on a road I ride on, but because its only about an inch deep they wont repair it till it gets worse, which inevitably will once the temperature drops and then the politicians will blame the exceptionally bad weather for causing it.

even potholes that do finally get fixed, they just use temporary repair methods, a shovelful of tarmac, usually left proud of the road surface to let the heavier traffic flatten it down but its just as much a hazard still on a bike and few months later its back to being a hole again because they didnt seal the repair or do it properly in the first place.

 

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burtthebike | 5 years ago
3 likes

Can't quite believe you didn't give the web address of fillthathole, so here it is https://www.fillthathole.org.uk/

It is probably mainly trucks and heavy vehicles which do the most damage, but I'm wondering if all those high powered cars have a similar effect.  After all, Newton tells us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and if you're channelling 300bhp through the tyres, the road reacts with the same force, which isn't likely to make the tarmac last longer.

So it's not only climate change and pollution, it is the roads themselves, and we need to restrict the power of motor vehicles to make the roads last longer.  And stop broadcasting that utter travesty of entertainment Top Gear and others like it which encourage speed and dangerous driving.

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maviczap replied to burtthebike | 5 years ago
3 likes
burtthebike wrote:

Can't quite believe you didn't give the web address of fillthathole, so here it is https://www.fillthathole.org.uk/

It is probably mainly trucks and heavy vehicles which do the most damage, but I'm wondering if all those high powered cars have a similar effect.  After all, Newton tells us that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and if you're channelling 300bhp through the tyres, the road reacts with the same force, which isn't likely to make the tarmac last longer.

So it's not only climate change and pollution, it is the roads themselves, and we need to restrict the power of motor vehicles to make the roads last longer.  And stop broadcasting that utter travesty of entertainment Top Gear and others like it which encourage speed and dangerous driving.

This drain cover is on one of my rides, it gets a beating from lorries collecting gravel from a nearby quarry. There's only one route the lorries can use, so its always going to cause damage, and not the first time I've reported this hazard, which did get repaired the last time I reported it.

I have to say, most of the reports I've filled in on 'Fill that hole' app in my area have been fixed pretty quickly, so my local council aren't too bad. I always write that its a hazard to cyclists & always add a photo

 

 

Avatar
burtthebike replied to maviczap | 5 years ago
1 like
maviczap wrote:

This drain cover is on one of my rides, it gets a beating from lorries collecting gravel from a nearby quarry. There's only one route the lorries can use, so its always going to cause damage, and not the first time I've reported this hazard, which did get repaired the last time I reported it.

I have to say, most of the reports I've filled in on 'Fill that hole' app in my area have been fixed pretty quickly, so my local council aren't too bad. I always write that its a hazard to cyclists & always add a photo

I've found the same, things reported on fillthathole get sorted pretty quickly.  I think it's the implied threat of sueing them if they don't fill it in asap.

Avatar
maviczap replied to burtthebike | 5 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:
maviczap wrote:

This drain cover is on one of my rides, it gets a beating from lorries collecting gravel from a nearby quarry. There's only one route the lorries can use, so its always going to cause damage, and not the first time I've reported this hazard, which did get repaired the last time I reported it.

I have to say, most of the reports I've filled in on 'Fill that hole' app in my area have been fixed pretty quickly, so my local council aren't too bad. I always write that its a hazard to cyclists & always add a photo

I've found the same, things reported on fillthathole get sorted pretty quickly.  I think it's the implied threat of sueing them if they don't fill it in asap.

I think it's easier to sue them if it's been reported, as they've been notified, although there was another one that was even worse that didn't get sorted, as I think it was another council's responsibility. So they can ignore these reports if they choose to.

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burtthebike replied to maviczap | 5 years ago
0 likes
maviczap wrote:

I think it's easier to sue them if it's been reported, as they've been notified, although there was another one that was even worse that didn't get sorted, as I think it was another council's responsibility. So they can ignore these reports if they choose to.

I thought fillthathole automatically sends the report to the relevant authority?  Perhaps the case you're talking about didn't use fillthathole.  Another reason to use it rather than any other way.

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don simon fbpe | 5 years ago
5 likes

I think that drivers, who cause the most damage, should have to pay a specific tax that is dedicated to the upkeep of the roads.

 

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hawkinspeter replied to don simon fbpe | 5 years ago
2 likes
don simon fbpe wrote:

I think that drivers, who cause the most damage, should have to pay a specific tax that is dedicated to the upkeep of the roads.

That's mainly affect lorry drivers. Cars do hardly any damage to the roads in comparison to heavier vehicles as damage is proportional to the 4th power of the vehicle's weight (or something like that).

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don simon fbpe replied to hawkinspeter | 5 years ago
0 likes
HawkinsPeter wrote:
don simon fbpe wrote:

I think that drivers, who cause the most damage, should have to pay a specific tax that is dedicated to the upkeep of the roads.

That's mainly affect lorry drivers. Cars do hardly any damage to the roads in comparison to heavier vehicles as damage is proportional to the 4th power of the vehicle's weight (or something like that).

That hits the political agenda right on the spot. How many of these vehicles come from Foreignland, and is there a way we can make it more difficult for them/charge them extra?

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StraelGuy | 5 years ago
1 like

I fear this article may be preaching to the converted...

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