Local authorities receive annual £500m for pothole repair

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The Department for Transport (DfT) has allocated enough highways maintenance funding to English local authorities to fix the equivalent of 10 million potholes.

The funding allocated to councils is the second of five equal-sized instalments from the £2.5bn 'Potholes Fund' created by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in the 2020 Budget. The funding makes up a large proportion of the total provided by DfT for road maintenance (£1.1bn) during 2021-22.

With the average pothole repair costing £50, the funding will provide for the equivalent of 10 million pothole repairs in England.

“We know potholes are more than just a nuisance – they can be dangerous to drivers and cyclists alike and cause damage to thousands of vehicles every year,” said transport minister Baroness Vere. “The funding allocated today will help councils ensure roads in their area are kept up to standard and that the potholes that blight road users can be dealt with promptly.”

According to a 2017 report from the RAC Foundation, the arrival of autonomous vehicles on UK roads will make pothole repair a serious priority given that these defects – as well as poor upkeep of road markings, signs and signals – can be “extremely dangerous” on a road supporting many autonomous vehicles.

The government said that since 2015, the DfT has invested heavily in pothole filling, including with a £296m 'Pothole Action Fund' running to 2021 and a £420m fund for highway maintenance. The Road Investment Strategy 2, which the government hopes will be the largest-ever roads programme, will invest £27bn in roads, including £10bn for road maintenance, renewable and operations.

In a statement, the Asphalt Industry Alliance said that its research showed it would cost £11.14bn to bring roads up to a reasonable standard, up from £9.31bn the year before.

“Potholes are a symptom of an under-appreciated and underfunded network. To keep essential services across the country moving and looking to recovery post-Covid, what’s needed is further sustained investment in effective road maintenance,” the group said. “That will help improve the condition of our local roads to prevent potholes from forming in the first place.

“While cash-strapped local authorities will no doubt welcome this year’s allocation from the Pothole Fund, it is still a fraction of the amount that’s needed and will not address deteriorating conditions and the rising bill to put it right.”

Scientists and engineers have proposed solutions to the pothole problem, including a trial of roads made from recycled plastic pellets mixed with asphalt (in the place of bitumen); filling potholes with wastewater grit rather than asphalt (which can leak hydrocarbons into the nearby environment), and turning lorries and cars into pothole detectors.

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