Chris Ames 15 May 2017

'Knife edge' warning as RAC reports shock rise in pothole breakdowns

The RAC warned that the condition of the country’s roads is on a knife-edge as it reported a 63% increase in pothole-related breakdowns in the first quarter of the year.

The motoring organisation said it was surprised that despite a mild and comparatively dry winter its patrols attended significantly more jobs that were likely to be attributable to poor road surfaces, such as broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers or distorted wheels.

It dealt with more than 6,500 pothole-related breakdowns between January and March 2017. This was comparable to the first quarter of 2015 but that quarter saw both more frost days and rainfall.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: ‘Our figures sadly show a surprising and unwelcome first quarter rise in the number of breakdowns where the poor quality of the road surface was a major factor. We had expected a figure no worse than that recorded in the first quarter of 2016 (4,026) and it is very concerning that the roads, strangely, appear to have deteriorated in a mild, comparatively dry winter.

‘However, the RAC Pothole Index, which takes out such short-term effects, suggests some better news for motorists – namely that the longer term picture is a slightly improving one.’

The RAC said the latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey indicates that the backlog of maintenance is largely unchanged over the last year, which suggests the slow improvement shown by its Pothole Index is as a result of a combination of favourable weather and the Government's dedicated pothole repair fund.

Mr Bizley added: ‘The backlog in preventative maintenance reported by the ALARM survey suggests we are on a knife-edge and it will only take one season of poor weather to take us back to where we were a few years ago.’

Separately, the AA said 76% of its members wanted all potholes to be filled within a week, while 18% said repairs should all be completed within 24 hours.

AA president Edmund King, said: ‘Our members are clear that the worsening condition of our road network needs addressing quickly.

‘Whoever forms the Government on 9 June, they will need to act fast or we will continue to have moon-like craters on our roads into the next parliament.’

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