The RAC has warned that Britain could be left with an “assault course of potholes” as the freezing weather disappears, and ice begins to thaw.
“We’re expecting a plague of potholes once the snow subsides. It’s a toxic combination of ice, snow, further rain and sleet,” an RAC spokesman told Sky News.
Potholes appear when moisture gets into cracks in the road. This moisture rapidly expands when it freezes.
This damage is compounded when vehicles – especially larger vehicles – drive through the affected area.
The RAC estimates that pothole damage costs drivers £100m a year.
The roadside assistance company saw an 11% jump in breakdowns caused by poor quality roads in the last three months of 2017.
In January, RAC warned that many roads are “hanging in the balance” if conditions are particularly cold or wet in Spring.
Richard Burnett, Chief Executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA) agreed the RAC’s analysis
“Pothole-related breakdowns are bad news for all road users. However, the cost to road hauliers in particular is considerable,” he said.
He continued: “Every day many thousands of deliveries are made to, and collected from distribution centres and manufacturers located at out of town trading estates. Yet because of financial constraints, these ‘side roads’ are not at the top of council repair lists. Yet the damage caused to HGVs, in particular to their suspension systems, can be considerable.
“These side roads must be included in any plans to improve the strategic road network.”
The Department for Transport said it was investing £23bn to increase road capacity and improve journeys.
Most potholes are on local roads, which local councils are responsible for.
Local councils warned in January that they would need to spend £12bn to address the current backlog of repair work.
The Local Government Association called for more central government money, claiming that motorways and major trunk roads receive 52 times more funding than local roads.
Driving into potholes can damage a vehicles suspension, shock absorbers and wheels.
The RAC’s Pothole Index – which measures how likely it is that an RAC member will suffer a breakdown caused by a pothole – showed several years of steady improvement, before the latest analysis showed a decline in road quality.
The RAC suggests that part of the problem is a ‘patch and dash’ approach from cash-strapped councils.
Instead of taking the time to carry out proper resurfacing work, many potholes are filled in in a hurry and in an ad hoc fashion.
Planned preventative road maintenance would, in the longer-term, be more efficient and cost-effective.
The RAC’s chief engineer David Bizley said:
“We want to see local authorities given the certainty of ring-fenced, long-term funding from central government sufficient to enable local authorities to bring all of the UK’s roads up to a standard that is fit-for purpose.
“Drivers contribute around £40bn of motoring based taxation a year and many will feel that they are having to endure roads that are substandard and therefore getting poor value for money.”
How to report potholes and claim for damage
For local roads in England and Wales, you should report potholes to the local authority. You can check which local authority you need to report problems to on Gov.uk.
For major roads, you should contact Highways England. You can check which motorways and ‘A’ roads Highways England manage on this map.
You can also report potholes and other issues quickly and easily using Fix My Street.
If your vehicle is damaged by a pothole then you may be able to claim compensation. You are more likely to be able to claim compensation if the pothole has already been reported to the relevant council or other body.