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The UK’s Pothole Problems Revealed

UK residents all know there is an issue on our roads; whether you drive a car, ride a bike or take public transport, you will see pothole ridden tarmac wherever you turn. After huge storms, like the Beast from the East, as well as an accumulation of road repairs, we have gathered data and information from industry experts from across the country to work out just how big the UK’s pothole problem truly is.

Click on the cones in the map below to discover a shocking pothole statistic in your area or scroll down to find out more information regarding recent pothole backlogs, road repairs and vehicle damages in the UK!

The UK’s Pothole Problem

According to Confused.com (2017), the total number of potholes totalled to 1,104,943 last year in the whole of the UK. After the unusual storms and huge backlogs of road repairs that we have faced in 2018, there would be no surprise if this total number of potholes increased by the end of the year.

In March 2018, it was confirmed by Transport Secretary Chris Grayling that local roads have been so badly affected that there is a need for almost £100 million of pothole resilience funding. Completely funded by the government, this new funding is on top of the already massive £75 million that the government has allocated to different local councils to help solve their pothole problems, proving the problem is bigger than first expected.

At Tyre Savings, we have calculated how much of this £97.5 million pothole resilience fund each region will receive. From the gov.uk site, we discovered funding allocation for each county in the UK and accumulated them by region.

See our table below which shows the funding allocation by each region.

Region Pothole Resilience Fund Allocation (£)
North East 10,052,109
East Midlands 11,266,752
East England 13,538,331
North West 17,361,320
South East 16,278,982
South West 17,373,384
West Midlands 12,383,473
Yorkshire and the Humber 14,696,646

Despite sorting these by region, we have included a table below with the top and bottom 5 cities (not including city region) that are receiving the least and most pothole resilience funding.

City (Top 5 and Bottom 5) Pothole Resilience Funding Allocation (£)
Leeds 989,926
Bradford 595,461
Doncaster 541,934
Wakefield 507,378
Liverpool 481,702
Reading 134,681
Luton 130,996
Slough 91,408
Sheffield 0
Birmingham 0

Although Sheffield City has received 0 pothole resilience funding allocation, Sheffield City Region is set to receive £1,364,732. A city region is the surrounding areas of a city; these areas are usually suburbs with their own local government and are smaller than the existing regions of England. The only other city region included in the funding allocation is Liverpool City Region with £1,860,126.

From our research and contacting councils across the UK, we can see that the pothole problem seems to be increasing year on year. According to the Freedom of Information results that we received from councils across the UK, it is obvious to see that, generally, pothole reports are increasing, fixes are decreasing whilst funding is remaining static.

In the East Riding of Yorkshire, there have already been 2,561 pothole reports from January to April 2018, already more than the 2,252 reports in the whole of 2017. In Warrington, 820 reports were made throughout 2017 compared to 904 pothole reports made in the first 4 months of 2018.

Vehicle Damage

According to WhoCanFixMyCar.com (2018), vehicle damage caused by potholes is costing UK Drivers £1.7 billion a year. From bodywork damage to steering alignment, the damages that drivers are having to pay to fix range in cost and severity but cost £157.75 per repair on average.

Councils will only decide if compensation can be made if the pothole that has caused the damage has already been made aware to them. This could explain why the percentage is so low for successful compensation claims.

Over the last four years, Rutland council have received 79 compensation claims where vehicle damage was caused by potholes, but only 7 were successful. It is always important to report any pothole that you see, even in smaller vicinities. This way, claimants should be more successful with their claims.

Despite 77% of pothole-related claims being unsuccessful, claims seem to be increasing year on year. Swindon City Council have spent £1,180.41 already in 2018 paying claimant damage which is more than what was paid out during the whole of 2017. County councils are also responsible for paying claimant compensations; Wiltshire Council have spent over £20,000 paying claimants for pothole related damage this year.

But while you might be waiting a while for pothole compensation, it is a good idea to understand how to check for vehicle damage once you have hit a pothole and know how to make a claim.

According to RAC (2017), distorted wheels, damaged shock absorbers and broken suspension springs are some of the typical vehicle damage you may see after driving over a pothole.

No matter the speed that a car drives over a pothole, it can cause damage to your tyres, steering alignment and wheels. If you are unfortunate enough to drive on roads with deep potholes, you may understand that larger ones can even cause you to lose control of the car or cause further internal damage to your vehicle.

The first thing to do when you think a pothole may have damaged your car is to pull over as soon as it is safe and legal to do so. This is because if there is any obvious wheel or tyre damage that could cause an accident if you carried on driving, you should call your road assistance or breakdown service.

It is a good idea to make notes of the scene; the size and location of the pothole as well as the damage that has been made to your car. If it is safe to do so, you could also take photographs.

You may not notice car damage straight away, so if you drive away believing you have been unscathed by the pothole, but then start to notice steering alignment troubles or strange vibrations, there may be some internal damage. If this is the case, take your car to your local garage.

Get the repair done at your local garage; ensure to get multiple quotes and keep every piece of communication you have with any garage. Then, make a claim to the local council where the pothole damage occurred. Councils do have a defence against claims as they can refuse to pay compensation if they were unaware of the pothole that caused the damage.

Road Repairs

It seems that temporary fixes to potholes are taking over the roads; according to an RAC spokesperson (The Telegraph, 2018), councils are repairing roads in a “patch and dash” system, simply covering them with tarmac which then crumbles in bad weather or consistently hard impact.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley also stated that UK roads are at the mercy of bad weather, under-investment and poor maintenance standards. On Boxing Day 2017, 5 RAC members rode over the same pothole, ultimately puncturing their tyres, meaning they had to leave multiple drivers stranded on the M25.

Leading from this, the Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for the government to tackle the “disparity in the maintenance funding it provides for national and local roads”. This is because the government is only planning on providing local councils with £21,000 per mile for the local roads that they maintain up to 2020. Compared to a huge £1.1 million per mile to maintain the UK’s strategic road networks, this is a miniscule amount that barely covers the repair rate for potholes on our local roads (Local.gov.uk, 2018).

The LGA’s Transport spokesman stated that it is illogical to focus primarily on motorways and trunk roads, since it is very rare that a journey will begin and end on these roads. Almost always, a car will begin and end its journey on a local road, where they will be met with potholes, congestion and badly damaged roads. He also comments that “only long-term and consistent investment in local road maintenance can allow councils to embark on the widespread improvement of our roads that is desperately needed”.

Some councils prioritise repairing damages that cause immediate damage such as East Sussex council pay £1.46 million every year to their reactive and emergency response service to repair road damages that cause immediate safety.

So, whilst local councils are battling to repair their roads, the government are also awarding certain councils with a maintenance funding for technological advancements.

The City of York has been awarded £72,000 to build on their ‘pothole spotter’ trail, whilst Blackpool Council has been given £100,000 to develop high definition cameras that will collect road condition data. These kinds of technologies will collect the data that the government and local councils so desperately need; why are the roads deteriorating and what can be done to prevent it in the future? (Local.gov.uk, 2018)

Although these kinds of technological innovations help to maintain the roads, it is fair to say that our roads here in the UK are past the point of ‘maintenance’ and need a full overhaul of repairs before maintaining their state.

In 2015, the University of Leeds were leading an innovative project to develop small robots that could potentially repair the roads. The project was funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Councils and was announced three years ago to collaborate with Leeds City Council and the UK Collaboration for Research in Infrastructure and Cities (Leeds.ac.uk, 2015).

Pothole Backlogs

According to the 2017 Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey, despite the current funding, it would cost £12.6 billion and take 14 years to fix the current backlog of potholes. In actual time, this would take us to the year 2032 before all current potholes on UK roads were repaired.

Local councils are struggling with more than 100,000 potholes reported by the public that remain unfixed due to lack of funding (Thisismoney.co.uk, 2018). Data accumulated by a cycling organisation, FillThatHole.org.uk, that tracks potholes reported by both motorists and cyclists, revealed that Surrey suffered with the most unfixed reported potholes in the country with 6,733.

An article published by The Times Transport Correspondent, Graeme Paton, revealed in March 2018 that as many as 1 in 8 local roads could be set to close within a year due to the amount of pothole repairs needed. Essential maintenance has been backlogged for so long, that 12% of local road networks may need to shut off from traffic due to the time it will take to repair the road surface.

After contacting councils across the UK, there seems to be a trend of councils struggling to upkeep with the amount of pothole reports that they receive. Southampton City Council have repaired 1907 potholes from January to May 2018, compared to a huge 2531 potholes that have been reported in that same time. In Hull, over the last three years, over 4000 potholes were reported to the City Council, but only 2,922 were fixed.

It isn’t just older towns with older roads that are suffering from pothole damage and crumbling roads, as Milton Keynes Council have had 2,574 pothole reports this year, but only 965 have been repaired.

In some responses to our Freedom of Information requests, we received figures from councils that showed duplicate reports of potholes, where the same pothole may have been reported by several people; Hampshire County Council received over 14,000 pothole reports between 1st January to 21st May 2018, which has increased from 11,235 the year before across 12 months.

How to Report a Pothole

It is the duty of your local council to fix potholes in your area. Your local council will keep track of pothole reports; therefore, it is essential you report them and help to solve the nation’s pothole problems. All you need to do is follow these 3 simple steps:

  1. Make a note of the pothole location. Include nearby landmarks, the name of the road and whereabouts the pothole is on the road surface. If it is safe to do so, try to measure by metres or feet from landmarks or from the side of the road where the pothole lies.
  2. Go to your local council website. If there is a ‘Report a Pothole’ page, be sure to add in the details from step 1.
  3. If there is no ‘Report a Pothole’ page, be sure to inform them of the pothole via contact form or email. Make sure that you receive confirmation from the council that they have received your pothole report.

Sources of information

Tyre Savings submitted a Freedom of Information request to both city and county councils across the UK. We asked the following:

We have used this information in conjunction with Open Government Licence Terms, the Re-Use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2015 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

All other sources used have been linked to in the text above and sourced within the infographic.

  1. The number of potholes reported in 2016, 2017 and 2018 up to date within your local authority area.
  2. The number of potholes reported in 2016, 2017 and 2018 up to date within your local authority area.
  3. The amount of money the local authority has spent on repairing potholes within your local authority area in 2016, 2017 and 2018 up to date.
  4. The amount of money the local authority has spent in 2016, 2017 and 2018 up to date on paying claimant compensation where vehicle damage was caused by damaged road surfaces, including potholes.