UK road surfaces worsening according to RAC figures

Written on October 31, 2017

The quality of UK roads is declining according to newly-released figures from the RAC’s Pothole Index, a 12-month rolling average of pothole-related breakdowns. The total number of vehicle faults caused by potholes attended by RAC patrols increased by 31% in the second quarter of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Patrols reported up to 3,565 instances of vehicles suffering damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs or distorted wheels in Q2 – all issues which can be attributed to sub-standard road surfaces – in contrast with the 2,725 breakdown cases reported last year.

David Bizley, RAC chief engineer, warned that the increase represents an unfortunate surprise after what has been a relatively dry and mild winter.

“This year’s weather has been so much milder and drier than in the equivalent six months last year, and for this reason we should have expected the numbers for the second quarter to be lower,” he said.

“A short-term reversal in the fragile improvement in surface quality of the UK’s roads may not seem much to be concerned about, but we fear it would only take a spell of very cold or wet weather for the improvements of the past year or two to evaporate, and for the nation to find itself in a situation when we would once again be seeking emergency funding from Government to address the worst affected roads.”

The first quarter of 2017 showed a similar increase in damaged vehicles, with RAC patrols attending 63% more pothole-related breakdowns than during the same timeframe in 2016.

Earlier this year the Government announced investment of £70million to be shared across local highway authorities outside of London, bolstering the £50million pothole repair fund revealed in 2016’s Spring Budget.

However, previous figures established in the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey – released by the AIA (Asphalt Industry Alliance) – indicate that local authorities may require sums exceeding £12billion in order to adequately update road networks.

The Pothole Index points towards a generally worsening picture of UK roads following five consecutive years of improvement by Government. As of Q2 in 2017 the index stands at 2.2, an increase from the Q1’s 2.08 which was notably the lowest recording since Q4 of 2016.

The rise to 2.2 also represents the first index increase seen since the start of 2016. Though falling short of the index peak of 3.5 between January and March 2010, both Q1 and Q2 figures for 2017 demonstrate some of the most substantial rises since recording began in 2006.

Bizley added: “While there is now long-term investment in place to maintain and improve our major roads, local roads still play a vital part in enabling the economy and remain motorists’ number one transport investment priority for central Government.

“They must not be neglected and this is why we are still calling on the Government to recognise their national significance and to mirror their approach to major roads and ring-fence a dedicated fund for this purpose.”