THE NUMBER of potholes in the UK will rise by nearly a fifth if government investment remains at current levels, according to research by Zurich UK and Cebr, an economic consultancy.
Even if Boris Johnson’s government meets its manifesto pledge to increase highways funding, only one in four potholes will disappear over the next decade, the report adds.
The conclusions were made after examining multiple factors including traffic levels, weather conditions, government funding and historical data.
The current estimate for the number of potholes on UK roads stands at over 560,000. The report predicts that unless spending increases, this could rise to 650,000 by 2030.
Potholes are formed when water seeps through cracks in the road’s surface, then freezes and expands. When the water re-liquifies and evaporates, it leaves a gap just beneath the surface of the road, which is then broken by traffic to form a pothole.
In its pre-election manifesto, the incumbent conservative government committed to “launch[ing] the biggest ever pothole-filling programme as part of our National Infrastructure Strategy — and our major investment in roads will ensure new potholes are much less likely to appear in the future.”
Local councils currently struggle to maintain road surfaces, having had funding for local services cut by 60% over the last decade.
To compound the issue, local authorities spent £3m in compensation to pothole damage victims in 2017-18. Surrey County Council paid out the most, spending £446,812.
A separate study, by price comparison site Confused.com, calculated that the combined depth of every pothole in Northern Ireland is deeper than the English Channel. The depth of all the UK’s potholes was estimated to be three times as deep as the pacific ocean by the same study, which was done using FOI requests.
Unsurprisingly, London will be worst affected, followed by Newcastle. 100,000 of the 650,000 potholes will be in the South East of the country, where £12m was spent repairing potholes in the region between 2017-18. Some £193m was spent repairing potholes nationwide, equating to around £169 per pothole.
Previous Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond pledged £420m in the October 2018 budget to deal with potholes and repair roads. However, the Asphalt Industry Alliance claims that £9.79bn is needed over the next decade.
Newly appointed Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to deliver the government’s new budget on March 11. The landslide general election victory is expected to lead to radical reform in public spending.