Drop in pothole-related breakdowns suggests UK roads are ‘improving’
RAC responded to roughly 1,000 fewer pothole callouts than in the first quarter.
A fall in the number of pothole-related breakdowns during the second quarter of 2019 suggests Britain’s roads are “gradually improving”, the RAC has said.
The three months from the beginning of April to the end of June saw the breakdown organisation respond to 2,149 callouts for damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels – faults the company says are “most likely” caused by poor road surfaces. That figure represents a significant decrease on the 3,276 similar breakdowns recorded in the first three months of 2019.
Even more encouragingly, pothole-related callouts made up just 1.1 percent of all the RAC’s callouts during that period. That means it’s the lowest second-quarter ratio since 2016 and a massive improvement on the record high ratio of 2.6 percent, set during the first quarter of 2015.
And better still, looking at the 12-month period up to the end of June 2019 reveals a total of 8,885 pothole-related callouts. That’s the lowest figure for a year-long period since the third quarter of 2007, when there were around 8,400 of these kind of breakdowns.
RAC Breakdown spokesperson Simon Williams said the figures represented “good news” for motorists, although 2019’s relatively mild winter gave councils a respite from the ever-increasing number of potholes.
“The number of pothole-related breakdowns RAC patrols are dealing with every day has undoubtedly fallen in the last three months compared to the same period last year, continuing the downward trend seen over the last 12 months,” he said. “This is without question good news for all UK drivers as it suggests that our roads are gradually improving. The government has made more money available to local councils to carry out much-needed road maintenance and it appears this is making the difference as fewer RAC members are experiencing damage to their vehicles than they did just a year ago.
“It is, however, very important to note that we had a very mild winter compared to 2018 which meant potholes didn’t appear faster than daffodils in the Spring, as they had done after the Beast from the East. The benign winter coupled with the maintenance work that has taken place hopefully puts us in a better position than we have been in for several years. The true test will, of course, be how well our roads cope with our next bout of harsh winter weather.”
But Williams said he was still keen to see the government create a long-term funding plan to combat potholes, which have spread to such an extent that a report earlier this year put the one-time cost of fixing all England and Wales’ broken road surfaces at almost £10 billion.
“While many repairs have been carried out it is still important that a long-term approach to local road maintenance is taken,” he said. “This is something the Transport Select Committee recently recognised in its report on local roads funding and governance and they concluded that a new approach is needed.
“We would like to see a five-year investment plan put in place which recognises local roads as a significant part of our national infrastructure and encourages pothole prevention as well as reactive maintenance. Ring-fenced funding is required and could easily be achieved if just 2p of the existing 58p fuel duty charged on every litre of petrol or diesel sold was set aside as additional funding. Over five years this would generate nearly £5 billion of additional funds – that’s half the amount the Asphalt Industry Alliance estimate is required to bring roads in England and Wales back to a fit-for-purpose state.”