UK roads in 'miserable state' as pothole-related breakdowns surge

The state of UK roads is "miserable", a motoring services chief has said, as vehicle breakdowns rose by 9% in the last year due to potholes, new figures have suggested.

The RAC reported some 27,205 callouts to breakdowns due to poor road surfaces received in the year to the end of March.

That compares to 24,906 during the previous 12 months, the RAC said.

Pothole-related calls were down by 22% in the first three months this year compared with the same period in 2023, but RAC said this was due to milder weather rather than new roads reducing the damage.

The impact of hitting a pothole can damage a vehicle's suspension affecting important components like shock absorbers, springs and ball joints, resulting in poorer handling and uneven tyre wear.

Dodging 'pothole bullets'

RAC head of policy Simon Williams acknowledged the lower callouts during the first three months but said it was "important not to lose sight of the bigger picture and the ongoing miserable state of our roads".

Referring to RAC analysis, Mr Williams said drivers are now twice as likely to suffer a breakdown due to "sub-standard road surfaces" compared to 2006.

He added: "While many would rightly say the roads are terrible, we believe they would have been far worse had we not had such a mild winter.

"We feel drivers have dodged the pothole bullet as the lack of widespread sub-zero temperatures has masked the true state of our roads."

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The cost of rectifying pothole-plagued local roads in England and Wales has been estimated at £16.3bn.

In October 2023, the government announced it would provide £8.3bn of extra funding in total until 2034 to fix potholes in England.

This was part of the Network North strategy to use money saved by scrapping the planned extension of HS2 to Manchester.

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "Local highway authorities are responsible for maintaining their road networks, but we are supporting them with £8.3bn of reallocated HS2 funding over the next 10 years, the biggest ever increase in funding for local road improvements which comes on top of an existing £5.5bn fund.

"Local authorities received the first £150m of this increase within weeks of announcing our additional funding in October, and will receive a further £150m this year to continue improving local roads."