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End the pothole plague: Motorists and MPs demand action as 1,400 drivers a DAY are hit by breakdowns

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Motoring groups and MPs today demand urgent action to tackle a growing pothole menace that is costing drivers millions and claiming lives.

A total of 73,000 breakdowns have been caused by damaged roads so far this year – an average of 1,400 a day, AA figures show.

The RAC estimates pothole repairs are costing motorists more than £130million a year. 

They can also be deadly for cyclists – in 2021, three were killed and dozens were injured when their bikes hit potholes, according to government data analysed by the charity Cycling UK.

Campaigners called for more funds raised from taxing motorists to be directed into filling in broken roads.

Motoring groups and MPs today demand urgent action to tackle a growing pothole menace that is costing drivers millions and claiming lives

Motoring groups and MPs today demand urgent action to tackle a growing pothole menace that is costing drivers millions and claiming lives

A total of 73,000 breakdowns have been caused by damaged roads so far this year – an average of 1,400 a day, AA figures show

A total of 73,000 breakdowns have been caused by damaged roads so far this year – an average of 1,400 a day, AA figures show

The RAC estimates pothole repairs are costing motorists more than £130million a year

The RAC estimates pothole repairs are costing motorists more than £130million a year

They can also be deadly for cyclists – in 2021, three were killed and dozens were injured when their bikes hit potholes, according to government data analysed by the charity Cycling UK

They can also be deadly for cyclists – in 2021, three were killed and dozens were injured when their bikes hit potholes, according to government data analysed by the charity Cycling UK

AA president Edmund King said: ‘Drivers, and those on two wheels or indeed two feet, are totally fed up with the potholed state of local roads. For those on two wheels the consequences can be much more serious, with several coroners citing potholes as a cause of death for cyclists.’

Last month, Harry Colledge, 84, a retired music teacher, died after his bike hit a crack in the road in Winmarleigh, Lancashire.

His widow Valerie, 69, said the pothole had been reported to Lancashire County Council.

She added: ‘The Government are trying to encourage us all to go out and get fit. That’s exactly what Harry did. But with so many potholes, cyclists are effectively playing Russian roulette.’ The council said it was co-operating with a police probe.

Government quango National Highways is tasked with filling holes on motorways and major A-roads.

Campaigners called for more funds raised from taxing motorists to be directed into filling in broken roads

Campaigners called for more funds raised from taxing motorists to be directed into filling in broken roads

AA president Edmund King said: 'Drivers, and those on two wheels or indeed two feet, are totally fed up with the potholed state of local roads'

AA president Edmund King said: ‘Drivers, and those on two wheels or indeed two feet, are totally fed up with the potholed state of local roads’

He added: 'For those on two wheels the consequences can be much more serious, with several coroners citing potholes as a cause of death for cyclists'

He added: ‘For those on two wheels the consequences can be much more serious, with several coroners citing potholes as a cause of death for cyclists’

Government quango National Highways is tasked with filling holes on motorways and major A-roads

Government quango National Highways is tasked with filling holes on motorways and major A-roads

Your guide to winning damages 

You may be able to claim compensation if your vehicle is damaged by a pothole.

If you know the postcode of the road where it happened you can use this website (gov.uk/report-pothole) to find out which organisation to contact.

Photograph the damage and pothole if you can.

Keep receipts for work and include extra expenses such as public transport fares while you can’t use your car.

Cyclists can claim for damaged bikes. Organisations such as Cycling UK and British Cycling offer free legal advice to members on injury claims.

If the council can prove it did not know of the pothole or had not long received a report, your claim could be thrown out.

You may consider a small claims court if this happens, but you could be liable for costs if you lose.

Local authorities deal with repairs on all other roads. But they say funds to fix potholes are dwindling.

The pothole backlog would take nine years to clear, according to research from the Asphalt Industry Alliance published last year.

Road tax revenue, estimated at £7.2billion this year, only funds motorway and major A-road upkeep. No vehicle fuel sales taxes, set for £25billion this year, are saved for repairs.

Tory MP Greg Smith, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘It should be seen as a point of fairness for everybody who drives that the tax they pay should first and foremost be used to ensure the roads they drive on are safe and usable.’

Nicholas Lyes, of the RAC, said: ‘Potholes are a menace which road users shouldn’t have to put up with. By ring-fencing just 2p a litre from fuel duty the Government could end the anguish suffered by millions of drivers every day on our local roads.’

In 2021 the Government pledged an extra £500million to repair potholes.

But Labour figures suggest some local authorities saw funding for potholes slashed by more than a quarter between 2020/21 and 2021/22. Councils in Yorkshire and the Humber saw the worst drop, from £72.42million to £51.94million – a 28 per cent cut.

Mr King added: ‘Our concern is that it appears that central funding for road maintenance is not always spent on roads.’

But a Local Government Association spokesman said last night: ‘It is simply not accurate to suggest councils are diverting money from road repair budgets to other areas of local spending. They spend considerably more every year on repairing roads and pavements than they receive in Government funding, with a pothole repaired every 19 seconds.’

A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘We are investing more than £5billion from 2020 to 2025 into local highways maintenance – including the Potholes Fund announced at the 2020 Budget.’

‘Our village lane is blighted by a pothole crater the council can’t fix’

Holly Bryant has unsuccessfully battled to fix a pothole covering the width of her village road. 

‘On the lane I’ve lived on for eight years there are a couple of drains that flood and the highways take four to six weeks to come and clear it, so it floods the lane and then we get big potholes,’ said the 37-year-old from Osgodby, Lincolnshire. 

‘They cleared the water this summer as it covered the whole width of the lane, about ten metres in diameter. 

Holly Bryant has unsuccessfully battled to fix a pothole covering the width of her village road

Holly Bryant has unsuccessfully battled to fix a pothole covering the width of her village road

'On the lane I've lived on for eight years there are a couple of drains that flood and the highways take four to six weeks to come and clear it, so it floods the lane and then we get big potholes,' said the 37-year-old from Osgodby, Lincolnshire

‘On the lane I’ve lived on for eight years there are a couple of drains that flood and the highways take four to six weeks to come and clear it, so it floods the lane and then we get big potholes,’ said the 37-year-old from Osgodby, Lincolnshire

Ms Bryant, who owns businesses that make premium dog bedding and soft furnishings, added: 'I got a puncture in my car before Christmas because of the stones, I had only driven half a mile and that was the only stony road. It costs me £250 to replace each tyre'

Ms Bryant, who owns businesses that make premium dog bedding and soft furnishings, added: ‘I got a puncture in my car before Christmas because of the stones, I had only driven half a mile and that was the only stony road. It costs me £250 to replace each tyre’

‘At one point a local resident had taken the initiative and cleared a path to the ditch themselves because the authorities were taking so long.’ 

Ms Bryant, who owns businesses that make premium dog bedding and soft furnishings, added: ‘I got a puncture in my car before Christmas because of the stones, I had only driven half a mile and that was the only stony road. It costs me £250 to replace each tyre. The water is permanently above your ankle, we go on the Fix My Street website and we’ve tried to get local councillors involved. 

‘But the council just close the issue with ‘No further action’ on Fix My Street. 

‘The council says there is no funding, they say they will fix the drain for the flooding but when I raise the potholes they say there will be no further action because they can’t fix the pothole until the water is gone.’ 

Richard Davies, highways executive member at Lincolnshire County Council, said: ‘Our policy is for potholes less than 40mm deep to not get immediate repair works, and over the last decade on this road we have carried out six jobs in total with nothing now outstanding in terms of potholes repairs.’  

MARK PALMER: A loud bang, then a grinding wheel… and a bill for £540

BY MARK PALMER

The roads in Barbados are notoriously pothole-ridden. They’re probably worse in Beirut after decades of warfare. But across Britain they are almost as bad. And that’s a disgrace.

Hit one of these craters at speed and you’re not only looking at a huge repair bill, but staring danger in the face. I know this only too well. On New Year’s Eve, my wife and I drove to Norfolk to bring some festive cheer to her 88-year-old mother, who lives in a care home.

Conditions were atrocious – high winds, heavy rain, temperatures just above freezing, dark.

After exiting the A11 dual carriageway, we joined the A1075 and had just gone through the hamlet of Stow Bedon when we hit a pothole. Bang!

It was obvious what had happened but not so obvious where we could stop, so I drove on slowly – hearing the grinding of the passenger wheel – before sidling into a driveway full of puddles.

With poor visibility and cars speeding past, we were at risk even with hazard lights. I could have called the AA but in the interests of time, I opted to change the tyre myself.

No repair shop was open on New Year’s Day (a mobile unit would have come to where we were staying and changed the tyre for £520), so we waited 24 hours before going to the Thetford Kwik-fit.

Richard Davies, highways executive member at Lincolnshire County Council, said: 'Our policy is for potholes less than 40mm deep to not get immediate repair works, and over the last decade on this road we have carried out six jobs in total with nothing now outstanding in terms of potholes repairs'

Richard Davies, highways executive member at Lincolnshire County Council, said: ‘Our policy is for potholes less than 40mm deep to not get immediate repair works, and over the last decade on this road we have carried out six jobs in total with nothing now outstanding in terms of potholes repairs’

Councils have a statutory duty to maintain roads to a satisfactory standard

Councils have a statutory duty to maintain roads to a satisfactory standard

If you do start litigation, local authorities claim they can only be held liable for reported potholes. This is the Section 58 defence in the Highways Act 1980, which councils try to hide behind

If you do start litigation, local authorities claim they can only be held liable for reported potholes. This is the Section 58 defence in the Highways Act 1980, which councils try to hide behind

New tyre, new ball bearings, all-round wheel alignment – that will be £540, thank you very much. ‘You could always claim off the council,’ said a fellow Kwik-Fit customer. He was right but, frankly, life’s too short. I could just imagine being driven round the proverbial houses by the council, hitting more and more obstacles along the way – and I hadn’t taken a photo of the offending pothole.

If you do start litigation, local authorities claim they can only be held liable for reported potholes. This is the Section 58 defence in the Highways Act 1980, which councils try to hide behind.

‘It’s nigh on impossible for motorists to win claims,’ says consumer disputes expert Scott Dixon, who runs thecomplaintsresolver.co.uk. ‘In some parts of the country you now have a 1 per cent chance of getting any compensation – and yet potholes are becoming the fastest growing concern for motorists.’ And are one of the fastest-growing reasons drivers call for help.

Nationally there is a backlog of repairs worth nearly £13billion – the equivalent of some £39million for every local authority in England and Wales

Nationally there is a backlog of repairs worth nearly £13billion – the equivalent of some £39million for every local authority in England and Wales

Cyclists and motorcyclists, who are in danger of paying the ultimate price when they encounter potholes

Cyclists and motorcyclists, who are in danger of paying the ultimate price when they encounter potholes

Councils have a statutory duty to maintain roads to a satisfactory standard, but there can’t be much of an incentive to comply when, nationally, there is a backlog of repairs worth nearly £13billion – the equivalent of some £39million for every local authority in England and Wales. Yet we motorists are paying for this lack of action via our insurance premium taxes, levied on car insurance policies, council taxes, vehicle excise duty, tax paid on fuel (with VAT on top), car parking permits and parking tickets.

And let’s not forget cyclists and motorcyclists, who are in danger of paying the ultimate price when they encounter potholes.

Successive governments have long boasted about how much money they have given to local authorities for road maintenance.

Successive governments have long boasted about how much money they have given to local authorities for road maintenance

Successive governments have long boasted about how much money they have given to local authorities for road maintenance

In 2020, £2.5billion was pledged over five years, but in 2022 the Government said this funding to rural councils would be cut by £480million. Blaming potholes on the weather is a hardy annual and we’re in peak season right now

In 2020, £2.5billion was pledged over five years, but in 2022 the Government said this funding to rural councils would be cut by £480million. Blaming potholes on the weather is a hardy annual and we’re in peak season right now

In 2020, £2.5billion was pledged over five years, but in 2022 the Government said this funding to rural councils would be cut by £480million. Blaming potholes on the weather is a hardy annual and we’re in peak season right now.

But the real blame lies with the shoddy repairs that are carried out, whereby asphalt is poured into the crater, only for the hole to reappear a few months later.

It’s either that or a pothole is deemed so dangerous that a council puts a few plastic barriers around it and hopes it will go away. Short-term expediency triumphs once again.  



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