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Potholes and the condition of UK Roads

roadworks cause delays for deliveries

The condition of UK roads and the ever-increasing number of potholes has become a contentious issue in the press and is a political weapon for MPs, while councils struggle to keep up with increasing costs to maintain the road infrastructure.  

While motorways are swiftly repaired, (the UK spends 31x more per mile on maintaining motorways than on local roads), local roads are suffering. With approximately 1 in 5 roads, or 37,000 miles of local roads, in England and Wales in poor condition and no more than 5 years of service left in them. The cost of repairing all these potholes is estimated at £14bn and would take 11 years to complete at the current rate of repairs. (Asphalt Industry Alliance Road Maintenance survey report – ALARM for short). 

A recent Freedom of Information request by the RAC sent to 185 county and district councils in England, to which 81 respond, revealed there were 556, 000 potholes in the year 2021-2022, a figure that would easily be double that if all 185 had replied, plus additional defects in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

In total 1.4million potholes were fixed between 2022 and 2023 in England and Wales.  

The RAC also reported a surge in breakdowns and that it had attended 8,100 pothole-related breakdowns in the 3-month period between April and June this year (2023) alone. A total of 27,500 breakdowns due to potholes were attended in the 12 months to June 2023, 20% higher than the previous year, or 4,450 more breakdowns. 

Meanwhile, the AA attended 1,735 pothole-related breakdowns a day in April 2023, a total of 52,000 pothole-related breakdowns that month. 

However, government spending on UK Road maintenance has halved from £4bn in 2006 to £2bn in 2019 (this was the last year of comparable data), a government spokesperson was quoted by Sky News as saying that between 2020 and 2025 the UK Government will be spending £5billion, implying a further cut to just £1bn per year.  

The government is now being urged to stop major new road schemes and instead spend the money on improving the current infrastructure, Wales has already set the example, claiming it is putting climate and ecology at the heart of future decision-making regarding infrastructure spending. 

As work continues fixing potholes, so the number of static or moving roadworks persists regularly causing disruptions. The Sun newspaper revealed the worst locations for roadworks were Essex (77,423 roadworks), Staffordshire (52,871) and Cardiff (43,252) top of the list, closely followed by West Northamptonshire, East Riding of Yorkshire and Worcestershire County, each with over 30,000 roadworks. 

While potholes pose a danger to road users, particularly cyclists, they mainly cause damage to vehicles and delays due to breakdowns and punctures. Logistics companies need to monitor the latest roadworks ( See One.Network)and any delays they cause. Accident and breakdown hotspots should be identified on delivery routes so they can be avoided or routed around using route optimisation software. If a particular problem is identified as an issue it can be geo-fenced, so the routing software avoids the location to keep delivery vehicles on schedule.  

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