Report: The UK’s Pothole Problem

Potholes in the UK are becoming more common on our roads and can sometimes take months until they’re fixed by the council. Potholes are especially problematic for cyclists, and if the results of this new report by the RAC are anything to go by, things aren’t looking good. Now we ask the question on everybody’s mind: just how bad is the pothole situation in Britain? VW service provider Inchcape Volkswagen explores…

Although cars are the most common vehicle on our roads, drivers aren’t the only people to suffer from potholes. Cyclists also suffer the consequences and unfortunately for them, hitting a pothole can have a much more severe outcome. According to a report from the Independent, 50 cyclists are killed or seriously injured due to the dangers in our roads, and this is becoming a more frequent problem.

Cars aren’t immune either. Figures from the RAC showed that over 6,000 breakdowns between January and March of 2017 were likely because of poor road surfaces. The last time that so many pothole-related breakdowns were recorded in a three-month period was in the first quarter of 2015 (almost 6,900 breakdowns were recorded then). However, in the early months of 2015, the country was subjected to more days of frost and rainfall when compared to the first three months of 2017, when the nation experienced mild and moderately dry conditions.

The chief engineer from the RAC 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.”

UK Pothole Statistics – Hotspots

The following table shows the 10 counties with the most reported pothole problems, as compiled by FillThatHole.org.uk. It is based on the number of road hazards which were reported to highway authorities:

Position Authority Region Total reports Open reports Fixed reports Percentage fixed
1 Surrey South East England 7,657 6,473 1,149 15%
2 Hampshire South East England 4,133 3,241 849 21%
3 Essex South East England 3,804 2,912 878 23%
4 Hertfordshire South East England 3,557 3,004 530 15%
5 Kent South East England 3,478 3,105 364 10%
6 Lancashire North West England 3,301 2,484 792 24%
7 Oxfordshire South East England 3,245 2,225 985 31%
8 Glasgow Scotland 3,059 2,444 601 20%
9 Cheshire East North West England 2,980 2,110 787 27%
10 West Sussex South East England 2,845 2,034 783 28%

Here is how the top ten places of FillThatHole.org.uk’s league table looks when ranked on open reports though:

Position Authority Region Open reports Total reports Fixed reports Percentage fixed
1 Surrey South East England 6,473 7,657 1,149 15%
2 Hampshire South East England 3,241 4,133 849 21%
3 Kent South East England 3,105 3,479 364 10%
4 Hertfordshire South East England 3,004 3,557 530 15%
5 Essex South East England 2,912 3,804 878 23%
6 Lancashire North West England 2,484 3,301 792 24%
7 Glasgow Scotland 2,444 3,059 601 20%
8 Buckinghamshire South East England 2,399 2,754 343 13%
9 Oxfordshire South East England 2,225 3,245 985 31%
10 Devon South West England 2,114 2,519 385 15%

How many potholes have been filled in?

From the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey of 2017, we found out that the number of potholes that were filled in from 2016/2017 by the council, in England was 13,568.

The top ten authorities ranked on fixed reports in FillThatHole.org.uk’s league table is as follows:

Position Authority Region Fixed reports Total reports Open reports Percentage fixed
1 York Yorkshire & Humber 1,187 1,341 151 89%
2 Surrey South East England 1,149 7,657 6,473 15%
3 Bristol South West England 1,094 1,475 199 85%
4 Oxfordshire South East England 985 3,245 2,225 31%
5 Cheshire West & Chester North West England 913 1,252 30 97%
6 Essex South East England 878 3,804 2,912 23%
7 Northumberland North East England 869 1,123 5 99%
8 Hampshire South East England 849 4,133 3,241 21%
9 Islington London 825 985 0 100%
10 Lancashire North West England 792 3,301 2,484 24%

Number of drivers who have reported damage in the past 12 months (by region)*

Region Number of drivers
South East England 941k
London 733k
South West England 721k
Yorkshire & Humber 720k
North West England 687k
West Midlands 609k
Scotland 521k
Eastern England 457k
East Midlands 365k
North East England 343k
Wales 201k

Average cost to repair pothole damage (by region)*

Region Average cost
Eastern England £163.68
South East England £124.93
London £124.65
Yorkshire & Humber £120.00
South West England £119.01
Scotland £109.02
West Midlands £87.59
North West England £87.01
East Midlands £86.33
North East England £72.66
Wales £61.83

Structural road condition percentage split in England

  • Percentage of roads across England in good condition (i.e. they have 15 years or more residual life remaining) — 53 per cent.
  • Percentage of roads across England in adequate condition (i.e. they have between five and 15 years’ residual life remaining) — 30 per cent.
  • Percentage of roads across England in poor condition (i.e. they have less than five years’ residual life remaining) — 17 per cent.

COMMENT BELOW: How is the pothole situation in your area? Do you think the situation can simply be rectified by greater investment, or are there smarter ways to help prevent/repair potholes?

Pete Reynolds

Pete is the co-founder and editor of Discerning Cyclist. He commutes by bike daily from his home to his co-working space. Originally from Wirral, UK, Pete now lives in Spain. When visiting a new city, Pete loves nothing more than to explore it on two wheels. See Pete's Muck Rack profile

3 Responses

  1. Clive Durdle says:

    Filtered permeability. Use power law to work out vehicle taxes, licence trespass of vehicles over pavement crossovers to vehicle storage and charge proportionate licence fee.

  2. Ian Ross says:

    I think that it is obvious that the use of spot repairs just doesn’t work for the long term. It is a regular site to see a pot hole for weeks or months after reporting it. Eventually you’ll see some spray paint which indicates that action is being taken with the spot repair sometime later.
    Generally speaking, you then see a repair of dubious quality with the pothole reappearing within a very short period of time. Especially when the weather is wet.

    The answer is better investment in the road network. Especially rural and minor roads.

    Surely the Ashphalt industry can tell us if the best way to handle this?

    The local authorities will plead poverty do maybe some infrastructure investment from central government is what is needed?

    The temporary repair can be a temporary solution whilst the major infrastructure investment is managed.

    Let’s face it, we need to make it safer and easier for people to give up car journies. Until the quality of the roads improves and the provision of safe and considerate cycling routes is established then those shorter local journies will not convert.

  3. Simon Bayes says:

    Been passing about five huge holes on the Old Church Road Hainford, they have been there a month and only last year the council had to pay me £2100 to replace two wheels and tyres, unbeknown to me the holes also damaged the suspension but it was to late to claim. the first on the left would throw a cyclist off causing real injury, take care.

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