Councils fill potholes every 19 seconds, but lack of funding puts longer lasting repairs out of reach

Potholes. They are the scourge of road users across the country. Motorists are fed up with having to fork out for repairs for damage done to their vehicles, especially flat tires, broken wheels and rattling suspension components — the common triplet of complications from repeatedly driving through craters, insurance providers say. breakdowns.

They are also deadly for cyclists and motorcyclists, problematic for pedestrians and costly for municipalities that have to pay compensation for damages and injuries to the public.

Such is the sordid state of our local roads that a new report has revealed the staggering total cost of fixing every pothole in England and Wales. The nation’s pothole plague is now so severe that the estimated repair bill has risen by almost a quarter in just one year, from £10.24bn to a staggering £12.64bn. That works out to £61,700 for every mile of local road.

Experts analyzing the numbers say it would take nine years of 24/7 resurfacing to fix them all, underscoring the scale of the problem. These astronomical statistics are revealed in the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) local authority’s annual road maintenance report, or Alarm for short. It is a survey of the municipalities, their budgets and total spending on local roads in the last 12 months.

This year’s report found that the average local authority road maintenance funding pool for fiscal year 2021/22 increased by around four per cent year-on-year. However, the amount actually spent on road improvements decreased. This was because the proportion spent on roads is only a fraction of the total available budgets.

For example, just 5.1 per cent of road maintenance budgets in England (excluding London) were spent on resurfacing roads, down from 5.5 per cent a year earlier. In the capital, the proportion spent on roads fell from 2% to 1.6%, while spending in Wales was 3%, down from 4.5% in 2020/21.

This is in part because highway maintenance budgets must be stretched to cover a host of cleanup expenses, such as structural work on bridges and ensuring street lights work, as well as cyclical maintenance that includes sweeping, mowing the lawn, control traffic signals and replace street furniture.

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The AIA says a lack of funding means highway engineers are forced to decide between keeping local roads open and safe with pothole repairs or improving the general condition of roads with resurfacing. The first, a patchwork approach, means that nearly one in five local roads maintained by councils may need to be rebuilt in the next five years due to their dire condition. This equates to nearly 37,000 total miles, according to the report.

It also suggested that local roads are only resurfaced once every 70 years on average, compared to once every 68 years when last year’s annual report was released. This means that a street that receives a new layer of asphalt this year will not be resurfaced until 2092.

By comparison, a pothole is filled every 19 seconds. However, because most of these repairs are not permanent, the craters tend to reappear within a few months and require repeated financing to correct.

Commenting on the report, AIA President Rick Green said, “The link between continued underinvestment and ongoing structural decline and below-average surface conditions on our local roadways is clear.

“The country’s ambitions to encourage active travel, in addition to reducing waste and carbon emissions, will not be achieved with a short-term approach that a world-class local road network cannot deliver.”

He added: “Local authority road crews have a legal responsibility to keep our roads safe, but they don’t have the funds to do it cost-effectively and proactively.”

David Renard, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, said: “Despite the efforts of local councils, who repair a pothole every 19 seconds, these new figures show that our local road repair backlog is increasing.

“To clear this growing backlog, councils need more government investment and certainty about future funding over the next decade.”

RAC road policy chief Nicholas Lyes said the report “provides a sobering picture of the dire condition of our local road network”. Earlier this year, the roadside assistance provider said the number of pothole-related incidents its patrols attended last year was the highest in three years. Some 10,123 RAC calls last year were for cars damaged by potholes, which works out to an average of 27 per day.

Mr Lyes added: “The government must now consider implementing a long-term financing strategy that isolates a small proportion of existing fuel tax revenue to give local authorities the resources to properly plan for maintenance and ensure our local roads are back in good condition. objective.”

Cycling UK campaign chief Duncan Dollimore said: “Underfunding and misplaced priorities from the government repeatedly prioritizing major road construction has left local roads in decline.”

Vehicle damaged by a pothole? Five steps to make your claim

1. The evidence

Make a note of where the pothole is, the time and date you hit it, and take a photo of the damage to your vehicle. If you did not do this at the time of the incident, you may return to the scene to take photos.

If possible, take your car to a garage and get a mechanic’s report, in writing, on the projected cost to repair the damage. Or, if your vehicle is undrivable due to damage, call a reputable repair center and request
an appointment.

2. Who to blame

To make a claim for compensation, you must first know who should pay. If the pothole is on a freeway or major highway, it is most likely an Interstate Highway problem. For local roads, you’ll need to research which council is responsible.

Once you have identified the party to contact, request a copy of the road maintenance schedules and the number of reported incidents on the particular road over the previous 14 days, as evidence that the road has not received proper maintenance or that a pothole has not been reported. has not been addressed.

3. Make the claim

You will need to issue a formal claim and most responsible parties will have a template that you can request.

4. If you receive an offer…

After making the claim, you should be notified if compensation is awarded, although you can still decline the offer value if you feel it is not enough, especially if you have evidence that the pothole had already been reported but the responsible party had not. acted to rectify it. If the council refuses to pay you compensation, you can seek legal advice or file a case in court. However, it’s worth warning that this could be a time-consuming process and is likely to be worth it only if the repair bill is significant.

5. Make a claim through your insurance

If you have comprehensive coverage, you can claim pothole damage on your insurance policy. However, it is worth considering the cost of the damage, as well as any overpayments, and whether this action will affect your no-claims bonus.

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