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Growing rate of pothole damage shows local roads have ‘deteriorated drastically’

Pothole damage to cars has more than doubled in the past decade, prompting warnings that the government and councils are maintaining national roads at the expense of local ones.

New analysis from the motoring organisation RAC shows that 0.9% of damage reported by members in June 2015-16 was for pothole-related issues such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

Although this is a low percentage overall, it is a 125% increase from 0.4% in June 2005-06.

David Bizley, RAC chief engineer, said: “Our analysis paints a very disappointing picture which unequivocally confirms what most road users already know, which is that the condition of our local roads has deteriorated drastically in the last decade.

“This analysis suggests that the quality of the UK’s roads suffered a steady decline from the start of 2007 through to the end of 2009, presumably due to lack of investment in maintenance and resurfacing during worsening economic times. Since then, injections of short-term funding have addressed the immediate aftermath of periods of extreme weather but have not been sufficient to tackle the underlying problem.”

The rate of pothole-related breakdowns has fallen slightly compared to this time last year, when it stood at 1.5%.

The RAC pothole index, an ongoing measure of pothole-related call-outs against all breakdowns, currently stands at 1.97%, the lowest since 2008. However, it is at a rolling average of 2.61%.

The report also shows high regional variations in levels of pothole damage, which stood at 1.5% in Scotland and the north and 1.3% in the north east, compared to 0.6% in the south east and 0.5% in London North.

Another survey, by the AA, found that 39% of motorists have suffered pothole-related damage in the past year.

The government has made significant commitments to maintaining the strategic roads network, with a Road Investment Strategy and a ring-fenced Roads Fund raised from vehicle excise duty. However, Bizley said most pothole damage is sustained on local roads.

“Without local roads that are fit for purpose, the benefits of the government’s bold investment in national transport infrastructure may never be fully realised,” he said.

He called on the new government under Theresa May to commit to treating local roads “as a strategic asset”.

A recent RAC survey of 1,555 motorists found that 10% said the condition of local roads was their top concern and 30% saying it should be the top transport investment for the government.

The last government promised councils £10m a year for pothole repairs, but local authorities warned that this is not enough to tackle a £12bn repair backlog they face.

Cllr Peter Box, transport spokesperson for the LGA, said: “Current funding levels mean councils are only able to keep pace with patching up our roads and filling potholes rather than carrying out more cost-effective and long-term improvements.

“Long-term and consistent investment in local road maintenance is desperately needed from government to improve road conditions for motorists and cyclists.”

(Image c. Danny Lawson from PA Wire)

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