The true depth of the UK’s pothole problem revealed

Scroll to the murky depths of the UK’s combined 1 million potholes reported in 2016 using interactive animation 

Posted on 17 Oct 2017

New freedom of information data reveals 1,031,787 potholes were reported in 2016 across the UK1.’s scrolling animation lets users visualise the depth of the UK’s pothole problem – which is 40 KM DEEP and almost FOUR TIMES the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean2.
The animation’s regional view reveals Scotland has the deepest pothole problem stretching 6,364m.
A third (33%) of drivers have had their car damaged by potholes and councils paid £3.1 million in compensation to victims in 20161.
Councils spent over £104 million repairing potholes in 20161, but 69% of drivers think they should do more to tackle the problem.

As the winter season starts to set in, new research presented in a scrolling animation drills down to the true depth of the UK’s pothole problem.

The research, obtained by from freedom of information requests to almost 200 local authorities, reveals 1,031,787 potholes were reported by drivers in 20161. Each local authority was also asked for the minimum depth of a road defect to be considered a pothole. This figure was aggregated against the total number of potholes to reveal a depth of over 40km2.

The driver savings site visualised the true depth of the UK’s pothole problem with an interactive animation, which allows users to scroll past iconic recorded depths – such as the English Channel (174m), the Mariana Trench (11km) and the world’s deepest man-made hole (12.3km). Users must scroll all the way into the Earth’s upper mantle (30km) before arriving at the UK’s combined pothole depth, which is 3.7 times the depth of the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean.

Users can even scroll to the true depth of the pothole problem in their local area using the animation’s regional view. 

Regional pothole problem ranked by depth 1,2

Region Number of potholes Total depth
Scotland 153,310 6,354m
South West England 138,672 5,495m 
South East England 12,797 5,199m
North West England 120,748 4,842m
Yorkshire & the Humber 92,894 3,901m
North East England 77,960 3,118m
East of England 62,027 2,957m
West Midlands 72,462 2,806m
East Midlands 42,549 1,762m
Northern Ireland 78,147 1,563m
London 42,738 1,522m
Wales 18,679 733m

The scale of the UK’s pothole problem has not gone unnoticed by motorists, with one in three (33%) having had a bumpy ride and suffering damage to their vehicle as a result of poor road surfaces. Most of these occurred in the months of February (12%) or March (11%) and damage was overwhelmingly caused to drivers’ tyres (64%) and/or their suspension (42%). This perhaps explains why local authorities had to fork out £3.1 million to compensate victims of pothole damage last year (2016). And even though councils spent £104 million on repairing potholes in 2016 – an average cost of £245 per pothole – 69% of drivers think councils should do more to tackle the problem. In fact, when quoted the 2016 repair figure, the majority of drivers (52%) think it is a good use of public money.

However, some local authorities are more willing to pay out for potholes than others. Of any local authority, Wiltshire Council made the biggest pay-out to victims of pothole damage, over half a million pounds in total.

Biggest compensation pay-outs to victims of pothole damage in 20161

Local authority Total compensation pay-out No. of potholes
Wiltshire £507,546 6,803
Surrey £343,685 31,104
Cardiff £288,025 2,928
Hampshire £152,630 12,072
Staffordshire £117,239 11,256

And it’s not just the level of compensation which varies from place to place. In fact, the cost of repair is also something which seems to be more expensive in some areas more than others. For example, Westminster City Council paid an eye-watering average of £2,400 per pothole it repaired in 2016.

Most expensive areas to repair potholes on average in 20161

Local authority No. of potholes repaired in 2016 Average cost to repair
Westminster 250 £2,400
Leicester 886 £2,063
Argyll & Bute 1,230 £1,802
City of London 123 £1,422
Gwynedd 554 £1,302

Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at, says: “Scrolling to depths of 40km really puts the UK’s pothole problem into perspective. They are a major bugbear among drivers, not least because of the damage they do to our vehicles – around £3.1 million worth of damage.

“If drivers experience a bump in the road, they should report it to their local council as soon as possible before the problem gets any worse. The cost of motoring alone is getting more and more expensive and damage repairs is a big contributor to this, as car parts increase in price as well. 

“For advice on pothole damage, and other ways to save on motoring costs, drivers can find more information at”


Notes to editors

Unless otherwise stated all statistics were obtained from a survey to 2,000 UK motorists. The survey ran between 10 October 2017 and 13 October 2017.

1. submitted a Freedom of Information request to 412 local authorities, and the Highways Agency, Transport Scotland and Welsh Government. Of these, 197 local authorities responded as well as Highways England. The following questions were asked:
a. The number of potholes reported within your local authority area in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 (to date), broken down by year.
b. The minimum depth and width (in inches or cm) a reported pothole must be in order to be recorded as a pothole by your local authority.
c. The number of potholes repaired within your local authority area in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 (to date), broken down by year.
d. The amount of money the local authority has spent on repairing potholes within your local authority area in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 (to date), broken down by year.
e. The amount of money the local authority has spent in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 (to date), broken down by year, on paying compensation to claimants where vehicle damage was caused by potholes/damaged road surfaces.

2. The total pothole depth was taken as the number of potholes multiplied by the minimum pothole depth for that local authority. Where a local authority did not specify a minimum depth, a UK-wide median depth of 40mm was used.


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