Pothole problem on local roads is getting worse, says RAC

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This figure includes all call-outs that were attributed to poor road surfaces, such as broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers or distorted wheels.

The increase suggests that the condition of the UK's local roads is getting worse, the motoring organisation said. The last time so many pothole-related breakdowns were recorded was in the first quarter of 2015, when RAC patrols had nearly 6,900 such call-outs. However, the start of that year had more days of frost and rainfall.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley commented: "Our figures sadly show a surprising and unwelcome first quarter rise in the number of breakdowns where the poor quality of the road surface was a major factor. We had expected a figure no worse than that recorded in the first quarter of 2016 (4,026) and it is very concerning that the roads, strangely, appear to have deteriorated in a mild, comparatively dry winter."

The longer-term picture looks more encouraging. The RAC Pothole Index, a 12-month rolling average of pothole-related breakdowns -- which is corrected to remove unrelated longer term effects of weather and improving vehicle reliability -- currently stands at 2.08, its lowest reading since the end of 2008.

But most local authorities still cannot afford to make in-roads into the backlog of preventative maintenance that would stop potholes forming in the first place, according to the latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey published by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

As a result, it would only take a period of extreme adverse weather for local roads to return to the poor state of a few years ago.

The ALARM data indicates that the slow improvement shown by the RAC Pothole Index is down to favourable weather and the dedicated pothole repair funding from central government.

"As a nation we still have a long way to go to ensure the whole road network -- not just our major roads which are enjoying one of the largest investment programmes in a generation -- is really fit for purpose," Bizley said.

"Local authorities still have a huge funding gap in their roads budget and until central government is willing to ring-fence sufficient funding to bring local roads back into a state that is fit for purpose, their condition will be subject to the whims of the weather and they will continue to be the poor relation in the nation's transport infrastructure."

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