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.

Nov 302006
 

potholesEstimated £320m bill for British motorists annually

The condition of British roads may not be getting any worse, but they’re not getting any better either, says a new report.

Analysis by independent automotive warranty provider, Warranty Direct, claims that potholes account for as many as 1 in 5 of all car failures across Scotland, a figure that falls to just over 8 percent of the total in the West Midlands.

Based on the firm’s database of over 60,000 vehicles, suspension and axle damage that can be traced back to poor road surfaces are now the most common failures for a shocking 60 percent of all vehicles.

On average, Warranty Direct reports repair bills of £328.60, but as high as £975.84* in some instances – that’s the equivalent of £320m every year for the British motorist.

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.

Table showing percentage of all suspension & axle failures

 

Position

Region

Percent of claims recording pothole related suspension   failure

1

Scotland

22.82 percent

2

North East

12.66 percent

3

Anglia

12.50 percent

4

North West

11.57 percent

5

Greater London

11.03 percent

6

Wales

10.77 percent

7

East Midlands

9.39 percent

8

South East

8.33 percent

9

West Midlands

8.04 percent

The latest ALARM report (Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance) says that engineers are simply ‘patching up’ roads rather than investing for the long term. It highlights a staggering £1.6bn shortfall in funding which has left them with a 10-year backlog.

Yet, despite the astonishing rates of failure recorded by Warranty Direct, year-on-year, the national average for suspension failures has recorded a marginal fall from 12.43 to 11.38 percent.

“Suspension failure is now a real problem for the motorist,” says Duncan McClure Fisher of Warranty Direct. “It seems unfair that the public should be financially penalised once again for choosing to drive on our roads.

Given the thousands of things that can go wrong with a modern car, suspension failure is almost reaching critical levels. Unfortunately, you really do risk the health of your car on certain roads.”

Regionally, the North East of England, at nearly 13 percent, recorded the second largest share of all claims attributable to a road defect or persistent poor conditions.  In Greater London, suspension failures accounts for more than 1 in 10 vehicle failures with more than £16m paid out in insurance claims by the Local Authorities last year alone.