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Pothole epidemic named as motorists’ biggest bugbear

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Crumbling, pothole-strewn roads have become the biggest problem for the UK’s drivers. Campaigners say the government needs to invest more in maintenance and repair.

Car stuck in pothole

The crumbling state of Britain’s roads is currently the most significant issue facing drivers, new research has found.

According to latest edition of the RAC’s annual Report on Motoring, the condition of local roads – and in particular, the huge number of potholes encountered on them – is now the top concern of one in 10 motorists.

Overtaking fuel prices and congestion

The report found that perennial issues such as the cost of fuel, congestion and uninsured drivers featured lower down the list of problems in 2015.

Half of those interviewed by the RAC said the condition of road surfaces in their local areas had deteriorated over the past 12 months.

But just 10% of drivers reported that roads had improved since last year.

The findings follow research published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) which showed that more than £12 billion of public funds are required to return our roads to a reasonable condition.

More resources needed

The RAC said that both central and local government should devote more resources to the upkeep of roads.

RAC chief engineer RAC David Bizley said: "Motorists clearly want the Government to provide sufficient funding to ensure local roads are maintained properly.

"But while any central government money given to local authorities for roads must be spent on roads, we also need councils to spend more of their own funds on repairing and replacing road surfaces."

Bizley added that under the current system, councils found it difficult to devote extra cash to road maintenance because of legal requirements to provide minimum funding levels to education and social services.

"Their obligations to maintain roads, on the other hand, are far less prescriptive," he said.

'Bias against road maintenance'

pothole

"It is therefore inevitable that expenditure is biased against investment in the likes of road maintenance where prescriptive legal obligations do not exist and councillors therefore do not face legal sanctions."

The RAC report found widespread support among the motoring public for extra taxes, provided the proceeds were ring-fenced for road maintenance. 

Almost half of drivers said they would be willing to pay higher rates of tax in such a case.

Bizley added that the government had already made significant progress in improving the UK’s strategic road network of motorways and major A roads.

Cash for major roads

In his summer Budget, Chancellor George Osborne said that from 2020, the money raised by vehicle excise duty, commonly known as road tax, will be used solely to maintain and develop the network. 

Bizley said:

"Bold and imaginative action is now required to address the deficiencies in local roads.

"Funding from central government is insufficient even to address the current backlog of repairs and local authorities are currently unable to fill the gap from council tax revenues."

Both the RAC and the AIA believe one of the biggest problems is the lack of preventative steps taken to stop potholes forming.

Instead, the organisations said, local authorities are focused almost exclusively on filling holes.

"We urge the government to follow the recommendations of the Pothole Review to ensure that the funds allocated are used for preventative maintenance of roads rather than just on short-term remedial repairs," Bizley added.

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