RAC warns local roads ‘on a knife-edge’ as pothole-related repairs jump 63%

LOCAL ROADS are on a “knife-edge”, the RAC has warned, after its patrols saw a 63 per cent increase in breakdowns due to pothole-related damage.

The motoring body said the rise in the first quarter of 2017 compared with Q1 2016 is particularly concerning given the relatively mild and dry weather between January and March.

RAC crews dealt with 6,500 breakdowns in the first quarter likely to be attributable to poor road surfaces, including broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers and distorted wheels. This is the highest total since the first quarter of 2015, although that period saw both more frosty days and higher rainfall.

The RAC warned that one season of cold and wet weather would cause further damage to local roads and undo any recent improvement work, making them worse than ever.

According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance, the backlog of local road repairs has been largely unchanged at around £11.8bn, despite councils filling around two million potholes every year.

The Local Government Association has said that up to 2020, the Government will invest more than £1.1m per mile in maintaining national roads, which account for just three per cent of the network, but just £27,000 per mile in the local roads that make up the other 97 per cent.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “As a nation, we still have a long way to go to ensure the whole road network – not just our major roads which are enjoying one of the largest investment programmes in a generation – is really fit for purpose. Certainly anyone that has experienced a breakdown as a result of hitting a pothole will know just how frustrating that can be – not to say dangerous and expensive if damage to their vehicle is sustained.

“The backlog in preventative maintenance reported by the ALARM survey suggests we are on a knife-edge and it will only take one season of poor weather to take us back to where we were a few years ago.

“Local authorities still have a huge funding gap in their roads budget and until central government is willing to ring-fence sufficient funding to bring local roads back into a state that is fit for purpose, their condition will be subject to the whims of the weather and they will continue to be the poor relation in the nation’s transport infrastructure.

“New figures show that car traffic is at its highest recorded level. And, with a General Election just around the corner the RAC is calling on whichever party or parties form the next Government to make a commitment to invest in all of our roads – by both continuing investment in the strategic road network through the Roads Fund and to ring-fence a proportion of the funds generated from motoring taxation to guarantee the quality of local roads well into the future.”