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Pothole breakdowns reach five-year high as RAC reveals 16% rise in call outs

The AA said it received 632,000 call outs to vehicles damaged by road defects last year

Pothole-related breakdowns reached a five-year high in 2023, new figures show.

The AA said it received 632,000 call outs to vehicles damaged by road defects last year.

That is a 16% increase compared with the previous 12 months, and is the most since 666,000 in 2018 when many roads were damaged by prolonged extreme cold weather from the so-called Beast from the East.

Common vehicle problems caused by potholes include punctures, distorted wheels, damaged shock absorbers and broken suspension springs.

Potholes are often formed when water enters cracks in the road surface, then freezes and expands.

The AA is part of a new coalition named the Pothole Partnership which marked National Pothole Day on Monday by sending a five-point plan to central and local government officials to press the case for more effective road repairs.

This includes making permanent repairs rather than using temporary patches, accelerating the distribution of pothole-repair funding, and full transparency from local authorities on their progress in tackling backlogs of road repair.

Other members are the National Motorcyclists Council, British Cycling, IAM RoadSmart, the British Motorcyclists Federation and pothole repair machine manufacturer JCB.

AA president Edmund King said: “Last year, AA patrols dealt with more than 600,000 pothole-related incidents which on a national scale will have cost drivers almost half a billion pounds.

“Currently, we often have a vicious circle of: pothole formed; damage caused; pothole patched; pothole reappears with more damage caused. What we need are more permanent repairs.”

The RAC announced it has joined forces with technology company Metricell to encourage drivers to use a new mobile app named Stan to automatically collect data on road conditions via smartphone cameras.

Metricell will share the information it receives with highways authorities.

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “Potholes are so much more than an irritation – they are a very serious danger to all road users which we fear will only get worse as the weather gets colder during these next few months.

“To prevent water damaging the roads in these winter months when it freezes and expands, we implore local highways authorities to completely resurface those in the worst condition and carry out more surface dressing between April and September on roads that are starting to deteriorate.”

In November, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to tackle “the scourge of potholes” with an extra £8.3 billion of funding over 11 years for local roads maintenance in England using money saved by scrapping HS2 north of Birmingham.

A Department for Transport (DfT) spokesperson said this “decisive action” is “the biggest ever funding increase for local road improvements and enough to resurface over 5,000 miles of roads across the country”.

Darren Rodwell, transport spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said:

“Councils share the concerns of all road users with the state of our roads and are doing all they can to tackle the £14 billion backlog of road repairs, including learning from and adopting innovative techniques.

“Greater, long-term and year-on-year consistency of funding for the maintenance of all parts of our highways will help them achieve this.”

The DfT launched a consultation on Monday to crackdown on utility companies letting roadworks overrun in England, which it believes could cut congestion and generate an additional £100 million over 10 years to resurface roads.

The proposed measures include extending the current £10,000 per day fines for overrunning street works from non-bank holiday weekdays only to include weekends and bank holidays.

There is also a plan to double fines from £500 to a maximum of £1,000 for companies who breach the conditions of a project, such as working without a permit.

The consultation is part of the Government’s programme to support people to use their cars.

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “After investing an extra £8.3 billion to resurface roads across England – the largest ever increase in funding for local road improvements – this Government continues to back drivers with these new measures from our Plan for Drivers.

“Our new measures seek to free up our roads from overrunning street works, cut down traffic jams and generate up to £100 million extra to resurface roads up and down the country.”

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