Preventing Potholes and Improving Road Infrastructure

The AA estimates that potholes cost drivers and insurers at least £1 million every month. Moreover, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) says that £9.7 billion is needed over the next 10 years to fix the current state of the roads. Not only is there a backlog of pothole repairs needed but the number of potholes being fixed each year has dropped from 1.9 million to 1.5 million according to the AIA, all the while the average council’s budget for highway maintenance has reduced by 16%. It has been estimated that this reduction in pothole maintenance cost road users in England over £2 billion in 2017.

The most recent action by the Government was the announcement in the 2020 Spending Review of a £2.5 billion Pothole Fund over the next five years to help local authorities fill-in around 50 million potholes across the country and stop potholes forming in the first place. This financial year alone will see £500 million from the fund go to repair 11 million potholes. As well as the extra funding which has been allocated for pothole repairs; the Department for Transport published a consultation in 2019 on the effects of utility companies’ reinstatements in the openings of roads for maintenance works and it proposed increasing the minimum guarantee for these reinstatements from two to five years and increasing the asphalt standard so as to keep roads pothole-free for longer.

Although the Government is attempting to tackle the pothole problem, many believe their strategies are not effectively confronting the problem. For example, David Renard, the Local Government Association’s (LGA) transport spokesman, said that “our roads are deteriorating at a faster rate than can be repaired by councils”. To this end, the LGA is calling for Local Authorities to be given devolved infrastructure and public transport budgets to properly address the potholes which blight the road network. Furthermore, the £2.5 billion allocated by the government last year, has been branded by the president of the AA as not enough to “do the job”. The RAC Foundation has also raised concerns about the lack of funding, however they also recognised that with an emerging economic crisis and tighter local authority budgets, a simple fiscal response may not be possible. Instead more ingenious solutions may be needed, whilst the post-Covid economic recovery may provide the optimum moment to focus on improving local roads

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