Fleet News

Repairs fail to dent £12bn road maintenance backlog

Almost one in five minor roads in England is in dire need of repair, official figures have revealed.

The Government’s Road Conditions in England report paints a mixed picture, with some minor improvements in certain road categories and deteriorating roads elsewhere.

For both types of trunk road, the proportion of the network that should be considered for maintenance increased between 2012/13 and 2013/14. The trunk ‘A’ road figure was 5%, up two percentage points on 2012/13. The trunk motorway figure was 3%, one percentage point higher than the 2% that should have been considered for maintenance in 2012/13.

Meanwhile, 8% of the non-principal classified ‘B’ and ‘C’ road network in England should have been considered for maintenance. This was a decrease of one percentage point from 2012/13.

All English regions, except London, reported that a higher percentage of their ‘B’ and ‘C’ roads should have been considered for maintenance than on their ‘A’ roads and motorways.

Data collected via different methods showed that 18% – almost one in five – of the unclassified road network should have been considered for maintenance in 2013/14, the same as in 2012/13.

The report comes in the wake of research from the RAC Foundation that showed almost 50,000 drivers made claims against councils across Britain for damage caused to their vehicles by potholes in the last financial year.

Those 200 local highways authorities (out of a total of 207) in England, Scotland and Wales dealt with 48,664 compensation claims during 2013/14.

This is the equivalent of roughly one claim being submitted every 11 minutes, and an increase on the 2012/13 figure of 46,139 claims.

However councils refused the majority of claims, agreeing to pay out in less than a quarter (23%) of cases.

The total value of successful claims was £3.2 million. The average pay-out for a successful claim in 2013/14 was £286, down from £357 the year before. The average administration cost of each claim – successful or not – was £147.

Almost two-thirds (65%) of fleets told Fleet News last year that their vehicles had suffered downtime as a result of pothole damage.  

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The fundamental problem lies not at the doors of our town halls but with central government. 

“Despite occasional one-off grants related to periods of harsh weather, they are simply not giving councils enough money to keep their road networks up to scratch.

“In England, local authorities themselves estimate the maintenance backlog to be about £12 billion. Yet over the past five years, spending on roads in real terms has dropped 22% across England and Wales.”

However, the Government argues that it is making funding available to local authorities to improve the condition of their road networks. Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced late last year that £6bn will be spent on tackling potholes and improving local roads between 2015 and 2021 (fleetnews.co.uk, December 23, 2014).

The investment amounts to £976m a year and, according to the Government, it is the first time councils have been given locked-in funding over this length of time.

Meanwhile, poor road drainage is another concern, highlighted by motorists in recent AA research. Half of 18,806 AA members polled in late January said that, where they live, heavy rain leaves roads pockmarked with pools of water that create a driving menace.

Although this compares with 51% at the same time last year, those feeling strongly about the hazard have risen to one in five of all members. Two-thirds (66%) of 18,806 AA members polled in late January said that councils don’t clear drains as well as they used to.

Rural parts of the UK, perhaps predictably, stand out as the worst areas for puddles, pools and even small lakes on roads. However, the parity of the south east with these areas underlines the dismal condition of rainy roads in the most populated part of the country.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Potholes and the condition of the road surface may be the focus of the Department for Transport report on the condition of English roads, but bad drainage can present a more extensive and potentially more damaging threat to UK drivers and their vehicles.”

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  • Goob_It - 23/03/2015 11:48

    Every road I can take to get to work are littered with potholes, many of which could cause a serious blow-out due to their depth and jagged edges. One of these punctured my tyre in 3 places and despite providing pictures of the potholes and my tyre along with detailed description of what happend, they refused to reimburse me for the replacement tyre and refused to comment on why they wouldn't.

    Something needs to be done as it seems our roads are in the worst condition they have ever been for several decades, is it going to take multiple serious accidents casued by people try to avoid the holes in the road or them driving over them and their tyre blowing out casuing a crash before the government will step in and take control of it. What are we paying our road tax for if not to maintain our roads?

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    • Darren - 23/03/2015 13:48

      @Goob_It - Just to clarify, there is no such thing as road tax and there hasn't been for a long time.

      The term being used now is vehicle excise duty and since 1937, there has been no link direct between the money the government earns from it and the expenditure on public roads

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