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pothole on the road next to a car

Potholes have pushed roads in England and Wales to a "breaking point"

England and Wales are facing a critical situation with their road infrastructure, as potholes have pushed the roads to a "breaking point." A recent report reveals that pothole repairs have surged to an eight-year peak, with local councils projected to mend two million potholes during this financial year. This marks a 43% increase from the previous year and is the highest figure recorded since the 2015-16 period.

The government has responded by announcing an allocation of £8.3 billion over the next 11 years dedicated to road improvements across England. The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA)'s yearly survey indicated that while 47% of local roads are considered to be in good condition, 36% are deemed adequate, and 17% are in poor condition.

Despite a 2.3% increase in average highway maintenance budgets for the 2023-24 financial year, the real value of these funds has been eroded by inflation, resulting in what essentially amounts to a decrease in spending power for local authorities.

The financial requirement to eliminate the backlog of necessary repairs on local roads has soared to an unprecedented £16.3 billion, a 16% increase from £14 billion the previous year. Rick Green, the AIA chairman, emphasised that although local authorities have slightly more funds this year, inflation has reduced their ability to address road issues effectively. He also pointed out that extreme weather conditions are exacerbating the deterioration of local roads, pushing them closer to a breaking point.

Potholes vary in size, but even smaller ones can cause significant vehicle damage over time, affecting tyres, suspension, and steering components, and present hazards to motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. In Daventry, Northamptonshire, a frustrated driver has put up signs referring to the area as "Pot Hole City" and "Pot Holy Island," highlighting the severity of the issue. Similarly, a resident on the Isle of Man has resorted to "guerrilla gardening" by planting daffodils in potholes as a creative form of protest.

The government's promise in October 2023 to provide an additional £8.3 billion for local road improvements comes as part of the Network North strategy, which reallocates funds initially intended for the now-cancelled extension of the HS2 railway north of Birmingham. This funding aims to address the urgent need for road maintenance and improvements, reflecting the critical state of England and Wales's road network.

Mr. Green remarked, "There's still a mountain to climb when it comes to fixing our local roads. While it's great that English local authorities should be getting more money from the government through its Network North funding, it's clearly not going to be enough to halt the decline."

Edmund King, President of the AA, noted, "Our breakdown data shows that 2023 was the worst year for potholes for five years. Arguably the road network is a local council's biggest asset, but not enough planned investment and repairs are being made to make streets safer and smoother for drivers and those on two wheels."

A spokesperson from the Department for Transport highlighted the government's commitment, stating, "taking decisive action to resurface roads and fix potholes".

Also mentioned "In addition, we have made £150m available for local authorities right now meaning funding for most authorities has increased by almost a third compared to last year, with a further £150m to follow in the coming financial year."