Misery for drivers as pothole breakdowns hit three-year high

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Pothole-related breakdowns have reached a three-year high, new figures show.

The RAC said it received a “ridiculous” 10,123 call outs for problems caused by damaged road surfaces last year.

That is 19% more than in 2020 (8,524 breakdowns) and a 10% increase on the 2019 total (9,198 breakdowns).

Some 1.5% of all call outs attended by RAC patrols in 2021 were for pothole-related issues such as distorted wheels, broken suspension springs or damaged shock absorbers.

A van passes over a large pothole near Ashford, Kent
The RAC responded to 10,123 pothole-related breakdowns in 2021 (Gareth Fuller/PA)

It released the figures to mark National Pothole Day, which aims to highlight the problems caused by crumbling road surfaces.

RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “The rot appears to have well and truly set in when it comes to the country’s roads, with our patrols going out to vast numbers of drivers who, through no fault of their own, are breaking down because of the wear and tear caused by potholes.

“This is ridiculous because it is almost entirely avoidable if roads were maintained properly.

Cyclists riding past a pothole in Islington, London
Potholes are a ‘serious road safety hazard’ for cyclists, the RAC said (Yui Mok/PA)

“Potholed roads are a menace, not a mere annoyance. They can cause thousands of pounds of unnecessary damage to drivers’ vehicles, make using our roads uncomfortable, and can be a serious road safety hazard for anyone on two wheels.”

Mr Lyes warned that the number of drivers hitting potholes will rise even further this spring as “inevitably, we have plenty of cold weather still to come this winter”.

Potholes are often caused by rainwater getting into road defects.

When the water freezes it expands, creating further deterioration in surfaces.

He called for “fresh thinking” on tackling the problem, such as ring-fencing a proportion of existing taxation to provide councils with long-term funding for maintaining local roads.

Recent analysis by the Local Government Association found that annual funding for more than 9.5 million pothole repairs has been removed from council budgets in England.

LGA transport spokesman David Renard said: “Greater and consistent long-term investment in local road maintenance is needed so councils can embark on the widespread improvement of our roads that is desperately needed.”

The latest report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance claimed councils in England and Wales would need to spend a total of £10 billion over a decade to bring all their pothole-plagued roads up to scratch.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “The Government is providing over £5 billion of investment over this Parliament for highways maintenance to local highways authorities across England.

“This is enough to fill millions of potholes a year, repair dozens of bridges, and resurface roads up and down the country.”

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