Pothole Road

English roads plagued with potholes as resurfacing works fall to five-year low

Image credit: Shutterstock

The number of miles of road in England that have been resurfaced or given life-extending treatment is at its lowest point in five years, an analysis has revealed.

The RAC said that 2021/22 figures, based on government data, show that just 1,123 miles of all types of road were resurfaced compared with 1,588 in 2017/2018. This equates to a 29 per cent reduction in repairs (465 miles).

The amount of surface dressing, a technique that extends the life of roads and helps prevent the need for full resurfacing, also fell: 3,551 miles in the last financial year compared with 5,345 five years ago – a 34 per cent drop.

This tallies with RAC research from earlier this year that found a 39 per cent increase in the number of drivers falling foul of potholes on UK roads.

Those findings suggest that in 2023, drivers are 1.6 times more likely to break down because of repeated wear caused by potholes than they were 17 years ago, when breakdown data started being collected.

Of the 153 roads authorities included in the latest data, 31 per cent did no resurfacing while half (51 per cent) failed to carry out any surface-dressing work.

The average length of road resurfaced for all authorities over the 12 months was just 13 miles, and 42 miles for surface dressing. Kent resurfaced the most miles of A-road at 29 of its 502 miles (5.8 per cent) while Lincolnshire did the most surface dressing at 50 miles of its 661 miles of A-road (7.6 per cent).

The RAC has called on the government to change the way it funds local road maintenance by ring-fencing a proportion of money raised through fuel duty to give councils the certainty of longer-term funding.

“These figures paint an incredibly stark picture of road maintenance in England and confirm our worst fears about the overall decline in the state of the country’s roads,” said Simon Williams, RAC head of policy.

“While the government has made more money available to authorities to fill potholes, it’s the general reduction in road improvement work that’s causing potholes to appear in the first place.”

Since coming into power in 2010, the Conservative government has repeatedly cut local government funding, which has led to a depletion in spending power for key services, including local infrastructure.

An analysis from the Institute for Government earlier this year found that local authority ‘spending power’ – the amount of money authorities have to spend from government grants, council tax and business rates – fell by 17.5 per cent between 2009/10 and 2019/20.

“It’s abundantly clear that councils in so many areas are barely scratching the surface when it comes to getting their roads up to a reasonable standard, and indeed the fact that such a large proportion haven’t done any surface dressing or resurfacing at all over a 12-month period really does say it all,” Williams continued.

“Resurfacing is expensive but for some roads this will be the only course of action as they have fallen into such bad condition that nothing else can save them. Having said that, we urge authorities to make greater use of surface dressing and other preventative treatments which can be used successfully to improve surfaces and extend the lives of roads.”

In March, the Asphalt Industry Alliance said that more than £14bn in central government funding was needed to fix the backlog of repairs.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles