Recent research by the Local Government Association has concluded that it’ll take 14 years and cost £12bn to fix all the potholes in England and Wales. But it does seem as though there are a lot of potholes about. So do ropey road surfaces drive you mad?
Being both a cyclist and a motorist, potholes have become a bane of my life. I’m either narrowly avoiding going under the wheels of a bus when I swerve them on my bike, or risking being rear-ended when I slam on the brakes of my car in an effort to drive over them slowly to save my poor axle, suspension and tyres.
Problems with potholes
Only recently, my cousin was complaining to me about the state of the road leading to her home in a village in East Sussex and how no one seemed to be fixing the potholes any more.
I told her the problem wasn’t just local to her: I had to negotiate them a lot more frequently in London, too. I then wondered (embarrassingly, out loud), why, if the road tax on my car continued to rise pretty much every year (so therefore must do for everyone else), this revenue wasn’t being used to repair the roads.
Of course, I was soon corrected: road tax doesn’t pay for pothole/road repairs on local roads – the town, city or county council does.
And, it seems, that due to years of underfunding and bad weather, the average council in England and Wales is facing a one-off bill of £69m to bring its roads up to a reasonable standard.
In fact, such is the backlog that new research by the Local Government Association (LGA) states it would take 14 years and cost £12bn to fix all the potholed roads in both countries.
Despite budget cuts, the LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, says that councils are filling and patching up more potholes than ever – one every 15 seconds at a cost of around £55 per hole – but has called for urgent longer-term investment.
In a recent discussion about bumpy roads and speed humps, one Which? Conversation Community member, Wavechange, called for action on potholes:
‘I would certainly join a campaign to get potholes fixed having required a catalytic converter shortly after driving over a pothole that was not obvious because it was full of water.’
The fact is, that while it may take a considerable amount of money to repair our roads, potholes are also taking a toll on our cars. Earlier this month, the RAC Foundation revealed that in the past year alone more than 31,000 claims were made to local councils for damage to vehicles caused by poor road conditions. Councils paid out in a quarter of cases, with the average settlement being £306.
The RAC also found that the number of vehicle breakdowns caused by pothole-related damage had more than doubled in the past 10 years. And it’s estimated that potholes cost British motorists £684m each year.
Repairing the damage
So what’s being done about our holey roads?
Well, the LGA is calling for extra funding – it wants the government to put funding of local roads on the same footing as main roads, and for 2p per litre of fuel duty to be given to councils for maintenance and repairs.
For those based in Devon, you may have spotted a clean-up operation on your holey roads with an army of volunteer ‘Community Road Wardens’ out repairing your roads. The county council is recruiting and training these volunteers, supplying them with the materials and equipment to fill the holes it can’t afford to mend itself.
So, what do you think – are we doomed to forever be dodging these perilous potholes? Do ropey road surfaces wind you up? Has your car been damaged by a pothole before? Did you claim the damage from the council? Would you voluntarily repair your local roads under a scheme like the one in Devon?
Has your car been damaged by a pothole?
Yes (53%, 415 Votes)
No (34%, 267 Votes)
Don't know (13%, 103 Votes)
Total Voters: 785