Fleets face further pothole misery with the quality of the UK’s roads worsening, according to newly released figures. Data from the RAC’s Pothole Index shows there was a 31% increase in pothole-related faults attended by its patrols in the second quarter of 2017, compared to the same period last year.
Patrols saw 3,565 motorists whose vehicles had suffered broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers or distorted wheels – issues that could be largely attributable to poor road surfaces. That compares to 2,725 similar breakdowns in the same three months of 2016.
The increase also comes after a relatively mild, dry winter, which RAC chief engineer David Bizley says should be of particular concern.
“This year’s weather has been so much milder and drier than in the equivalent six months last year, and for this reason we should have expected the numbers for the second quarter to be lower,” he warned.
“A short-term reversal in the fragile improvement in surface quality of the UK’s roads may not seem much to be concerned about, but we fear it would only take a spell of very cold or wet weather for the improvements of the past year or two to evaporate, and for the nation to find itself in a situation when we would once again be seeking emergency funding from Government to address the worst affected roads.”
Results for the first three months of 2017, also showed an increase in vehicles being damaged. RAC’s patrols attended 63% more pothole-related breakdowns than they did over the same period in 2016.
The Government announced that £70 million would be shared across local highway authorities in England, outside of London, earlier this year.
The investment was in addition to a £50m pothole repair fund which was announced in the 2016 spring budget.
However, the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), has previously revealed that local authorities need more than £12 billion to bring the network up to scratch.
Furthermore, nine out of 10 respondents to a Fleet News poll said they had not seen any improvement in the state of roads in the UK despite more funding being allocated to pothole repairs.
Bizley said: “While there is now long-term investment in place to maintain and improve our major roads, local roads still play a vital part in enabling the economy and remain motorists’ number one transport investment priority for central Government.
“They must not be neglected and this is why we are still calling on the Government to recognise their national significance and to mirror their approach to major roads and ring-fence a dedicated fund for this purpose.”
The RAC Pothole Index, which is a 12-month rolling average of pothole-related breakdowns corrected to remove unrelated longer term effects of weather and improving vehicle reliability, also indicates a worsening picture after five successive quarters of improvement.
As of the second quarter of 2017, the index stands at 2.2, having begun at a base of 1.0 in 2006. This is an increase on the first quarter of the year when it stood at 2.08 – the lowest figure recorded since Q4 2008 – and the first increase seen since the beginning of 2016.
Nevertheless, it should be pointed out that overall road conditions are still vastly better than the high index point of 3.5 in January to March 2010.
The customary decline in the number of pothole-related faults from the first three months of the year to the second was also greater in 2017 than usual.
There was a 46% fall (6,559 in Q1 to 3,565 in Q2) this year compared to a 32% decrease in 2016 (4,026 Q1 to 2,725 in Q2).
When considered in the context of all RAC breakdowns the share of pothole-related call-outs in the second quarter of 2017, equates to 1.6% of all RAC jobs which is the fourth highest Q2 figure seen over the 11 years since 2006, which is the start date for the RAC’s analysis.
The share of pothole-related call-outs in Q1 2017 equated to 2.7% of all RAC jobs – this was the largest quarterly figure seen since the RAC’s pothole analysis began in 2006.