£20bn backlog as potholes grow

£14 billion and 11 years. That’s the estimated cost of fixing all the potholes in England and Wales. When combined with the arrears in bridge repairs, that’s a total maintenance backlog of £20 billion.

A recent report found that almost one in five local roads in England and Wales are in poor condition. The Government’s £200 million in the March 2023 budget for the unsexy but essential job of filling potholes on local roads in England is totally inadequate. It’s only enough to fix 1% of the backlog.

The situation got so bad in Middlesbrough that a local councillor, fuelled by numerous complaints by local residents, took the matter into his own hands and started repairing potholes himself until he was told to stop by the council. He’s not the only one to take matters into their own hands. Even Rod Stewart has got in on the act. In Staffordshire, a tyre fitter told of how 14 cars were damaged by the same pothole in just 12 hours. However, the honour of being ‘the capital of potholes’ goes to the London Borough of Islington, with a survey discovering 3,804 potholes in 148 miles of road. Second place went to the Metropolitan Borough of Kirklees in West Yorkshire. Although with potholes growing by the day all over the country, who knows how long they will retain these dubious honours.

Local councils think it would take at least 11 years to get local roads into a reasonable state, even if enough funding was provided, with a road on average now being resurfaced every 116 years. The folly of the Government’s approach is costing the taxpayer dear as preventative maintenance, such as resurfacing, is approximately 20 times more cost effective, per square metre, than patching and filling potholes.

Why is the Government throwing money down potholes instead of fixing them?

Research has found that people are desperately calling for proper road maintenance, with 65% of car and van drivers placing the maintenance of existing roads as more important than building new roads or adding lanes to existing ones. Despite this, and the statistics and images detailing the alarming state of our roads, the Government continues to want to create new roads. Over £11 billion pounds is being spent on building new roads projects up until 2025, when we can’t even maintain the ones we already have. Meanwhile there is an urgent need for more investment in road maintenance, public transport and active travel.

In Wales, the Government has decided to halt road building unless the project passes four tests. While the recent announcement by Mark Harper (Secretary of State for Transport) to delay several road schemes was very welcome, what we desperately need in England is a roads reset, before more of the public’s money is thrown down the drain – or a pothole!

Please respond to the national transport policy consultation and urge the Government to prioritise investment where it is needed: in the maintenance of our roads, public transport, and active travel. It’s quick and easy to edit our template letter.


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