Pothole-related breakdowns are soaring, despite mild winter

The RAC said the number of pothole-related breakdowns is a concern after a mild and comparatively dry winter.
The RAC said the number of pothole-related breakdowns is a concern after a mild and comparatively dry winter.

Pothole-related breakdowns surged in the first three months of 2017, according to new figures.

The RAC said the condition of local roads is on a knife-edge and one season of cold and wet weather could make it worse than ever.

It dealt with more than 6,500 breakdowns between January and March likely to be attributable to poor road surfaces, up 63% on the same period last year.

This included broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers and distorted wheels.

The last time the firm recorded as many pothole-related defects was in the first quarter of 2015.

It described the figures as a major concern because it expected the mild and comparatively dry winter to lead to a reduction in incidents.

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."

A recent Alarm study by the Ashphalt Industry Alliance found that local authorities need more than £12 billion of funding to bring the road network up to scratch.

The gap between the amount councils say they received in the last year and what they require to keep roads in reasonable order is almost £730 million.

Mr Bizley added: "We still have a long way to go to ensure the whole road network - not just our major roads which are enjoying one of the largest investment programmes in a generation - are really fit for purpose.

"Certainly anyone that has experienced a breakdown as a result of hitting a pothole will know just how frustrating that can be, not to say dangerous and expensive if damage to their vehicle is sustained.

"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."

The Local Government Association, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, say councils fix a pothole every 19 seconds, amounting to 1.75 million per year.