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£10 billion needed to bring England and Wales' potholed roads, report finds

Potholes can cause damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels Credit: PA

Councils would need to spend almost £10 billion over 10 years to bring England and Wales' potholed roads up to scratch, a report claims.

However, it's not all bad news, the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (Alarm) survey found that the number of potholes repaired by councils in England and Wales have risen by more than a fifth in the last year.

Around 1.86 million potholes were filled in during 2018/19, which is up from 1.53 million in the previous 12 months.

The annual report revealed that highway maintenance budgets have increased from an average of £20.6 million to £24.5 million year-on-year.

But the report warned that much of this is being spent on “patch and mend” work that does not provide value for money or improve the resilience of road surfaces.

More potholes were filled this year Credit: PA Graphics

There is also a “big discrepancy” in what different councils are spending on roads.

Some in England received highway maintenance funding equivalent to more than £90,000 per mile last year, while a third handle reduced budgets - including some having less than £9,000 per mile.

Councils would need to spend a total of £9.79 billion over 10 years to bring all their roads up to scratch, the report stated.

The analysis is based on council responses to a survey by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

While the numbers of filled-potholes increased in the last year, RAC figures show drivers are two-and-a-half times more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown than in 2006.

Its patrols received 1,714 call-outs between October and December 2018 for problems usually caused by road defects, such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels.

Cyclists are 'more likely to be injured' Credit: PA

Paul Tuohy, chief executive of Cycling UK, said: “Cyclists, like pedestrians, suffer particularly badly from poor road maintenance, as the outcome is far more likely to involve personal injury.

“Cycling UK supports the AIA’s call of ‘don’t stop now’.”

AA President Edmund King agreed that "the Alarm survey suggests that the country is beginning to find its way out of the rut.

“Increased funding and a milder winter presents an opportunity to begin to catch up on the backlog – but any slackening off will simply pitch our roads back into a deep hole.”

RAC figures show drivers are more likely to suffer a pothole-related breakdown than in 2006 Credit: PA

Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesperson added: “Councils share the frustration of motorists about the state of our local roads and, as this survey shows, fixing our roads is a priority for them.

“Faced with severe financial pressures, councils have managed to spend more on road repairs in the past year in order to fix a pothole every 17 seconds.

“Despite these efforts, it is clear that our roads are deteriorating at a faster rate than can be repaired by councils, with the cost of clearing our alarming national roads repair backlog on the rise and now at almost £10 billion.”

Bad weather makes roads worse Credit: PA Graphics

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Potholes are a huge problem for all road users and the Government is taking action, providing local authorities with more than £6.6 billion for roads maintenance and pothole repair in the six years to 2021.

“In addition, we are trialling new technologies to stop potholes from forming, as well as new ways to repair roads.

“We are now also consulting on increasing the standards of roadworks by utility companies to help keep roads pothole-free for longer.”