Massive £8bn pledge to fix potholes barely scratches the surface, say experts
Rishi Sunak’s £8billion pledge to fix rampant potholes has a bumpy road ahead of it, experts have said, as the PM is up against years of infrastructural decline.
After controversially scrapping the second leg of HS2, Mr Sunak pledged that the funds would be used instead to upgrade Britain’s transport infrastructure across the country – including the largest cash uplift ever seen in fixing potholes in local areas.
But much of the money is going to improving existing transportation – and the scale of the issue represents a huge task, experts have said.
Rick Green, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), told the Telegraph “our roads are just declining in front of us” after the group’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey found the UK’s local roads are in the worst state they’ve been for at least 28 years.
READ MORE Thousands affected by potholes with 2023 one of the ‘worst years on record’
Figures from the AA found that last September was the worst month in five years for pothole-related incidents, with a whopping 47,223 pothole-related breakdowns attended by crews.
And in the first nine months of 2023, potholes were responsible for nearly 460,000 callouts to the AA.
This figure is nearly a fifth more than over the same period last year and up 8 percent compared to the pre-pandemic figure in 2019.
But efforts to fix the issue are declining, with the AIA reporting the number of potholes filled in over the last year dropped from 1.7million to 1.4million.
Part of the issue lies with a decline in funds available to local councils – with central government grants to local authorities falling from £46.5bn in 2009/10 to £28.0bn by 2019/20 adjusted for inflation, according to the Institute for Government.
Explaining why councils have therefore focused on prioritising other issues such as schools and social care, Mr Green added: “Roads don’t collapse dramatically, they just progressively get worse and worse, so it is easier to kick the can down the road a bit further when times are hard”.
The more extreme weather caused by climate change is also making the situation worse, Jack Cousens, head of roads at the AA, told the Telegraph.
Potholes are caused by water falling into cracks in roads, then freezing and expanding, worsening the imperfections – making extreme cold snaps dangerous for roads.
Villagers ‘cut off’ by extreme potholes despite paying £545 each to fix them[REVEAL]
Mapped: The most traffic-clogged roads in England[INSIGHT]
‘I’ve been at war with potholes – Sunak should come to me and not his advisors'[ANALYSIS]
- Support fearless journalism
- Read The Daily Express online, advert free
- Get super-fast page loading
The issue is also made worse by heatwaves, with Cousens saying: “At a certain point, the tarmac starts to melt. That in itself starts creating the imperfections that become potholes further down the line.”
The AIA say local authorities in England and Wales face an annual funding shortfall of £1.3bn in their road maintenance budget.
The £8.3bn will be allocated in this way: £3.3bn in the North West, North East and Yorkshire and Humber, £2.2bn in the West Midlands and East Midlands, and £2.8bn in the East of England, South East and South West, and London.
Mr Sunak said: “For too long politicians have shied away from taking the right long-term decisions to make life easier for hardworking families – tackling the scourge of potholes being a prime example.
“Well-maintained road surfaces could save drivers up to £440 each in expensive vehicle repairs, helping motorists keep more of the cash in their pocket.
“This unprecedented £8.3bn investment will pave the road for better and safer journeys for millions of people across the country and put an end to the blight of nuisance potholes.”
On a visit to a project tackling potholes in West Horsley, Surrey, Transport Secretary Mark Harper said drivers will “see improvement straightaway” in road conditions.
He said: “That money is enough to resurface over 5,000 miles of roads, so people will see a step change in the quality of local roads.
“For drivers, for cyclists, for bus users – anyone who uses the roads – this is a real improvement.”
Mr Harper said it is up to local authorities how to spend maintenance funding, such as on tackling potholes and resurfacing roads.
Source: Read Full Article