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    • Protect the environment. Think before you print.

Potholes: A bumpy road ahead

February 20, 2020

With the government pledge for increased highways funding, just one in four potholes will disappear in the next 10 years

Based on current levels of Government investment, research reveals the volume of potholes is set reach 651,000 in the next decade, an increase of 16%
Almost 100,000 of these will be scattered across the South East
By 2030 Tyneside will have the second highest number of potholes in the UK at 21,860 compared to just 5,013 in Liverpool
In 2015, cars drove a total of 226 billion miles on roads in England and Wales. By 2030, this figure is forecast to reach 290 billion putting much greater pressure on road infrastructures
As a result of climate change frost days are predicted to decline by 10% during the 2020s to just 44 days per year by 2030

6500,000 potholes

7840_Zurich_Pothole_Social_Assets_V12In the next ten years, UK road users could be battling more than 650,000 potholes across the country without the Government’s promised investment of £500 million per year, new research reveals. Drivers are already dodging a total of 560,836 potholes on roads, but we can expect to see this to increase by 16% by 2030. The research, which was carried out by economics consultancy Cebr and Zurich UK, examines multiple factors which contribute to the number of potholes such as traffic levels, weather conditions, government funding and historical volumes of potholes.

Rod Penman, Head of Public Services Zurich UK comments: “Potholes are the symptom of a much wider and deep-rooted issue. It’s been getting worse simply because government funding and council resources have not been sufficient enough to cope with the magnitude of the issue.  Across the board, councils will have lost almost 60p in every £1** of central government funding in the last decade, creating an unsustainable gap in their funding.  
“This isn’t just about drivers and burst tyres. Potholes create far-reaching effects for pedestrians and cyclists who are most likely to incur the worst injuries.  We welcome the government pledge to invest in this problem, however with our research suggesting potholes will increase without it, there’s still a lot to do”

Potholes across the country

It’s not a level playing field across the UK when it comes to potholes. Much of this can be attributed to sheer volume of traffic which creates more pressure on the road infrastructure. Unsurprisingly, London is expected to have the highest volume of potholes by 2030 totalling more than 14,843. Without Government investment, this figure will hit 23,428. In 2015, cars drove a total of 226 billion miles on roads in England and Wales. By 2030, this figure is forecast to reach 290 billion (Department for Transport) placing greater pressure on road infrastructures.

 Potholes data grouped_With logo
Table 1 source: Cebr

Conflicting priorities

The scale of the current pothole problem in the North East of England, together with the large share of the region’s traffic that is focussed on Tyneside, means the volume of potholes in this area could reach 21,860 if government spending does not pick up. However, potholes are not local authorities only challenge as they have to balance many other dynamics such as clean air zones and initiatives that encourage high tech business into the area, with a consequential impact on highways.   

Climate change – air frost days down by 39% by 2030

Weather conditions have a huge impact on potholes. Following one of the worst winters on record in 2010 there were almost 1.1 million potholes reported across the country. Based on Met Office projections for minimum temperatures across the UK, the number of air frost days is set to decline to just 44 in 2030. In 2010, this rose to 72 which means a 39% decline between 2010 and 2030.

Rod Penman concludes: “Whether or not the increased Government investment comes to fruition, potholes are going to remain a significant issue and it’s crucial that highway authorities take a strong risk-based approach to road maintenance services.  Implementing the requirements of the Code of Practice and continuing the efforts to use their money as effectively as possible will be vital in order to drive further value from the government’s investment.   

“As a business, we are well equipped to assist and advise these authorities of the best ways to do this, linking into the bespoke data that we hold, our Risk specialists, and potential external partners.   We want to help every local authority spend their money in the most effective way to combat this problem.”

If the government fulfils its manifesto pledge…

Based on Office for Budget Responsibilities’ (OBR) and Cebr's investment predictions for the next ten years, the additional funds would serve to reduce the volume of potholes across the country by just over a quarter.  

Our research shows that by 2030 we could see almost £9 billion of Government funding invested in UK roads. However, even these ambitious spending plans would not be enough to effectively address the problem of potholes faced by UK motorists.  With the additional investment, coupled with fewer frost days, we will hopefully see a more manageable picture than we’ve got today, but this can only really be leveraged when coupled with effective risk management.

-Ends-

Tracy Dickerson, UK Media & Public Relations - 07940 753663, tracy.dickerson@uk.zurich.com 

Notes to Editors
** CEBR carried out a multiple regression analysis using; capital expenditure on roads (OBR and 2019 spending), frequency of air frost days (Met Office) and vehicle miles travelled on UK roads (Department for Transport).
2. Local Government Association – Local  Government Funding (opens in new browser)