May 022007
 

potholed roadDespite sinking billions into the public purse, British motorists are being subjected to a postcode lottery when it comes to the repair of potholes.

The monitoring of local roads and the time it takes to get them repaired depends on where you live, according to an investigation by new independent campaign website, Potholes.co.uk.

“There are two issues here,” explains website spokesperson Amanda Allen. “Not only could a dangerous and damaging pothole in your road go unreported for weeks or months because of random methods of inspection but, once it’s reported, the criteria used to assess whether it is dangerous enough to repair differs from council to council.”

With an estimated 1 in 5 suspension failures linked back to poor road surfaces*, Potholes.co.uk questioned a selection of councils across the UK about their approach to dealing with potholes in their areas, and found a muddled and inconsistent strategy for targeting defects.

In most areas, any road defect deeper than 20mm can be safely classified as a pothole. However, Lincolnshire and Devonshire County Councils take a somewhat more relaxed approach, with defects needing to reach 50mm and 40mm deep respectively before they are given immediate attention.

Some councils, such as Gwynedd, Wales, prioritise pothole repairs based on the size of the defect while others, such as Portsmouth City Council, rely on trained inspectors to consider size, position in the road, and how much traffic uses the road before making a judgement and prioritising accordingly.

There were also wildly differing methods of monitoring the occurrence of potholes across the nation. Although councils such as Birmingham set an example, with patrols undertaking a monthly inspection of all classified roads, councils are only obliged to check roads once per year.

“It is more random than regular,” says Allen. “This means that a pothole can remain undetected for months if not reported by road users. There is a system in place to report faults, but hardly anyone actually knows that system exists, or how to use it.”

Potholes.co.uk is a new online resource to inform UK drivers of their rights when it comes to potholes, and provides a useful database of council contacts, with advice about how to make a claim if cars are damaged due to road defects.

Aug 182005
 

3rd world countryPoor road surfaces continue to account for nearly 1 in 6*1 vehicle failures as the shortfall in annual road maintenance funding hits the £1bn mark*2.

According to a study by independent automotive warranty firm, Warranty Direct, 17.1 percent of reported car failures for the first eight months of 2005 are the result of suspension and axle damage, linked to potholes. The average cost of repair, so far, stands at £276.07 – compared to £185.84 in 2000.

Warranty Direct has recorded a 42 percent increase in the number of claims it handles where the vehicle owner subsequently refers the cost to local authorities for compensation over the past 12 months.

The most recent survey by ALARM (Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance)*2 revealed increases in claims by road users against local authorities for damage to vehicles due to road structural conditions over the past 10 years of 60 percent in England (exc London), a staggering 187% in Wales and 43% in London. It also revealed a near £1bn shortfall in road maintenance funding for 2004, an increase of almost 50 percent.

Either continuous driving over cracked or uneven road surfaces, or the sudden jolting of a deep pothole, can cause damage to shock absorbers, springs, upper and lower arms and stabiliser bars.

Regionally, Anglia recorded the largest share of all claims attributable to a road defect for one region. At 28.35 percent, it was up by more than half compared to 2004. More than 1 in 5 claims from motorists in the North East and Scotland were the result of poor road conditions.

Greater London crept above the national average to 17.74 percent of failures compared to 13.99 percent in 2004. The rise left the local authority with a £392,000 compensation bill.

Table showing percentage of all suspension and axle failures:

Pos   Region                  Percentage

1.      Anglia                           28.35

2.      Scotland                       21.43

3.      North East                    21.07

4.      Greater London           17.74

5.      East Midlands              16.52

6.      North West                  14.78

7.      South East                  13.60

8.      Wales                          12.56

9.      South West                 12.50

10.     West Midlands           12.47

 

Warranty Direct managing director Duncan McClure Fisher commented: “It is fast becoming a Catch 22 for the local authorities. Under funding, poor and potentially dangerous road surfaces, and a diversion of much needed finances to deal with the marked increase in compensation claims.

“Last year, our research highlighted the link between poor road conditions and a 47 percent rise in suspension failures over a five year period. Twelve months on, the problem remains and there are no signs that matters will improve in the short-term,” McClure Fisher added.

In 2004, local authorities in England paid out more than £810,000*2 in compensation. Records for Wales show a similar sum of £790,000*2.

Vehicle reliability data is available on www.reliabilityindex.co.uk

Based on data gathered from millions of pounds worth of claims handled every year by leading independent automotive warranty supplier, Warranty Direct, the Reliability Index provides the car buyer with a valuable insight into the good, bad and ugly of the motoring community.

Visitors to the website are able to examine a host of data including the average cost of repair and length of time it should spend in the garage.

Importantly it also plots the chances of your chosen model suffering from engine meltdown, transmission hiccups, air-conditioning failure and axle or suspension trouble.