AIA says that a record number of local authorities took part in this year’s survey, providing robust data for analysis and underscoring the value that those working in the sector place on its annual findings.
The detailed annual ALARM report is used by local authorities for benchmarking and by stakeholders across the sector as a tool for tracking local road conditions and funding.
In 2021/22 the report revealed that not all local authority highway teams saw an increase in funding: 56% of authorities reported a cut or freeze in their highway maintenance budget, even before inflation is considered.
The annual ALARM report says the UK faces a £13bn road repair bill - up 25 per cent from last year
Over the last year 1.7 million potholes were filled – the same as last year – equivalent to one every 19 seconds. Overall, £107.4m was spent filling potholes in 2021/22 and the total spent over the last 10 years is more than £1.04 billion.
Chair of the AIA, Rick Green, has titled the overview of the report ‘Waving not Drowning’. Commenting on the ‘sticking plaster’ effect of filling potholes, he said: “Although surface repairs have a part to play in extending the life of local roads, fixing potholes is indicative of a network on the edge and is less efficient when it comes to materials usage and carbon emissions. And, with the total cost of compensation claims rising, the conditions of our local roads are out of kilter with the public’s expectations and out of line with what’s needed to achieve the country’s levelling up and net zero ambitions.”
Road conditions are assessed in 3 categories: principal roads, which are mainly A roads (10%), non-principal roads (29%), and unclassified roads (61%).
Roads classed as RED (poor overall condition) saw a 2% increase. The need to prioritise work means that an unclassified road is at least three times more likely to be classified as RED than either a principal or non-principal road.
Pothole-related breakdowns hit three-year high in 2021
The number of pothole-related breakdowns attended by RAC patrols hit a three-year high, with 10,123 incidents in 2021 — an average of 27 per day.
RAC customers experienced 19 per cent more breakdowns caused by broken suspension springs, distorted wheels, and damaged shock absorbers in 2021 than in 2020 and 10 per cent more than in 2019.
It’s no surprise that callouts for 2021 were higher than 2020, when many vehicles were parked up due to Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. Despite the effect of lockdowns on the data, the RAC are seeing year-on-year rises in pot-hole related call outs.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said:
“The rot appears to have well and truly set in when it comes to the country’s roads with our patrols going out to vast numbers of drivers who, through no fault of their own, are breaking down because of the wear-and-tear caused by potholes. This is ridiculous because it is almost entirely avoidable if roads were maintained properly. With drivers contributing so much in terms of tax to the Government the very least they deserve are roads that are fit-for-purpose.
“Potholed roads are a menace, not a mere annoyance – they can cause thousands of pounds of unnecessary damage to drivers’ vehicles, make using our roads uncomfortable and can be a serious road safety hazard for anyone on two wheels.”.
IAM RoadSmart’s annual Safety Culture Report, which tracks drivers’ changing attitudes to key road safety issues, discovered that three in four motorists (75%) now perceive potholes to be a bigger issue for road users than they were three years ago. This was followed by driver distraction (68%) – such as texting or talking on a mobile phone - and traffic congestion (65%).
The 2021 survey of more than 2,000 motorists revealed that 89% of drivers have been affected by potholes over the last year. One in three (31%) had changed their route to avoid a pothole with more than half (54%) having had to steer away or brake hard to avoid impact and damage.