AA Streetwatch Survey

Fewer potholes – but still more than six per mile of road

Fewer potholes – but still more than six per mile of road

Fewer potholes – but still more than six per mile of road

A local authority blitz on potholes has improved UK roads, the latest on-the-ground survey by AA Streetwatchers has found. However, local roads are still blighted by an average of 6.25 per mile and winter is yet to show its worst.

Eight hundred hours of surveying by AA members in their own neighbourhoods in October found that even those walking on pavements encountered an average of nearly two potholes (1.9) per mile.

Overall, the number of potholes in roads has improved from an average of 14.9 per survey last year to 12.5 this year. Paths and pavements are marginally better, down from 4.0 to 3.7 per survey.

The pothole count per mile:

  • Scotland – roads 8.9, pavements/paths 2.81
  • Yorkshire/Humberside – roads 8.5, pavements/paths 3.9
  • West Midlands – roads 7.3, pavements/paths 2.1
  • East Midlands – roads 6.4, pavements/paths 1.5
  • North West – 6.1 roads, pavements/paths 1.5
  • South East – roads 5.8, pavements/paths 1.4
  • East Anglia – roads 5.6, pavements/paths 1.3
  • South West – roads 5.2, pavements/paths 1.0
  • London – roads 4.9, pavements/paths 2.4

(Results for Wales, Northern Ireland and the North East were not statistically robust enough to be included)

Vulnerable road users at risk

Poor quality road repairs were seen 7.8 (2011 6.2) times in the average survey, while inspection covers that were at different level to the road cropped up another 3.6 (4.5) times.

Two-thirds of the inspection covers and nearly half of the road repairs were felt to prove a hazard to cyclists.

Cyclists are not the only vulnerable road users at risk.  Footways are also showing increasing signs of decline with an average of 10 (7.6 in 2011) areas of uneven surfaces being reported by each Streetwatcher.

They also found an average of four (2.4 in 2011) poorly patched repairs and two (1.9 in 2011) raised or lowered inspection covers on pavements or paths during each survey. 

Falls on pavements can cause major injuries, especially to older people who are more likely to be hurt.  London, with 18.96 (10.6) uneven path faults, was close to twice the national average for reported defects per survey.

Signs and lines

Signs and lines also are in need of repair.  Each Streetwatcher found an average of one road sign and 3.6 road markings that they felt needed repair or replacement.  Scotland, with 6.2 worn or faded road markings stood out from the next worst, Yorkshire and Humberside with 4.4.

More litter

It isn’t only the fabric of the road that suffers from neglect.  The average of 27 reports of litter found by each AA Streetwatcher is worse than last year and may reflect on either scaled down litter clearance by local authorities or increased littering by the population.  Meanwhile the amount of dog fouling stayed at the same level as in 2011.

Streetwatch surveyors were asked to walk a route of their choosing in their local area for around 60 minutes – typically covering around two miles. 

Although patching up the roads after last winter’s ravages has brought some improvement, their condition is on a knife-edge and drivers are still likely to have to dodge potholes

Edmund King, AA president


“Only recently, the Local Government Association warned that potholes may again become a serious problem this winter with local authority budget cuts biting and no likelihood of extra government cash. The AA Streetwatch survey has found that, although patching up the roads after last winter’s ravages has brought some improvement, their condition is on a knife-edge and drivers are still likely to have to dodge potholes,” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.

“We are once again grateful to our loyal band of AA Streetwatchers who have gone out and helped us take a snapshot of road and path conditions in their local area.  This year they did note some improvement but also continuing problems on the ground.  Their main concern was, once more, potholes which blight some neighbourhoods, pose danger and risk damage for all road users - whether on two feet, two wheels or four wheels.

"We also had individual reports of deep potholes which are a total menace in the dark or in rain when often they are not spotted until it is too late. The deep potholes damage tyres and wheels and are a major safety risk for cyclists and motorcyclists.” 

Additional funding allocated

In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced additional funding of £333 million for highways maintenance for both the motorway and trunk road and local road network.

This included £215m additional capital funding to be provided to local highway authorities, including London, to help renew and repair the network in England. £140m will come in 2013/14, with the remaining £75m following in 2014/15.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin published details of the way in which this funding would be allocated by region and local authority on 18 December.

Local highway authorities will be required to publish a brief note on their website by the end of each financial year (end of April 2014 and 2015) on where and how this additional funding was spent on highways maintenance.

AA view

The extra money is welcome and will soften the potential impact of recent highway maintenance budget cut backs because of austerity.  Long term stable budgets are the best way of reversing highway decline.  The AA welcomes the improved transparency the government requires by asking authorities to publish information about how and where this extra money was spent.

(19 December 2012)

AA Streetwatch volunteers spent 800 hours carrying out street surveys of the condition of the roads and pavements in October 2012.