In a pot-hole lot of trouble – even before winter sets in

Published on Friday, 25 November 2011 10:53
Written by Scott Buckler

Roads in many parts of the UK are already plagued with potholes before any winter freeze gets to work on them, the AA’s army of Streetwatchers has revealed

For councils trying to get on top of the plague, only the South West has on average more repaired potholes than new ones.

The survey, at the end of October, involved around 1,000 AA Streetwatchers walking around their UK neighbourhoods for an hour noting nine road and path-related issues.  Overall, they found that the average pothole count per AA Streetwatcher was 14.9 potholes compared to 12.5 a year ago. The survey defined a pothole as being at least six inches in diameter and at least two inches deep.

The survey results leave a strong sense of councils struggling courageously to tackle the pothole problem. However, they seem to have been overwhelmed trying to patch up roads that are crumbling through years of inadequate funding of structural repairs.
The survey found:


  • Overall, the North East and Scotland had most potholes per survey, averaging 19.0 and 20.1 respectively against a national average of 14.9 potholes per neighbourhood.
  • Across the Midlands, for every three repaired potholes, there is one that the councils have marked but not repaired yet. This compares with a UK average of six to one.
  • Against a national average of 12.8 repaired potholes per neighbourhood, the South East averages 13.7, South West 13.8, Scotland 14.0 and North East 16.4.

Drivers don’t want to spend the winter trying to zig-zag round even more potholes and paying out when their cars are damaged by repairable road defects. The poor condition of the roads is of particular concern to those on two wheels when the consequences of hitting a pothole can be fatal.

"The AA Streetwatch volunteers have once again shown that the UK has a pothole plague which has not gone away despite extra repairs this year. Highways authorities need to get to grips with the pothole problem, as compensation claims will soar when cold weather strikes and roads start breaking up again placing greater burdens on already strained budgets," says Edmund King, the AA's president.

Many councils have been swamped by the deluge of potholes, yet the evidence from the South West suggests the problem can be turned round. Although we are sympathetic with the plight that councils find themselves in austere times, the fact remains that we are seeing the legacy of a ‘Cinderella’ approach to road maintenance funding over many years. The job now falls to them to rectify past failings and prevent drivers, cyclists and pedestrians paying a price on roads they pay tax to have properly maintained.

We looked at marked potholes in this survey because we were keen to establish a pattern of how many are repaired, marked for repair or how many untreated ones remain.  With many councils now looking at their budgets we need to establish a colour coding system for marking potholes so the public know how quickly they can expect a pothole to be repaired if it is not an immediate danger.

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