Motorway condition

Cracks appear in motorways’ reputation for best road surfaces

The state of the roads is drivers’ No 1 concern

The state of the roads is drivers’ No 1 concern

UK motorways’ reputation for providing the best road surfaces to drive on has taken a battering this winter, research* among more than 16,000 AA members has revealed.

The AA Motorists’ Manifesto shows that the state of the roads is drivers’ No 1 concern (#Vote4BetterRoads).

In November (2014), 54% of AA members were happy to rate motorway road surfaces as good but by March (2015) that had fallen to 51%.

Biggest change in Wales

The biggest change of opinion was in Wales, where 54% of AA members rated motorway surfaces good in November but that had fallen to 47% by the end of the winter.

Other regional changes

Drivers in the East Midlands, down from 55% to 49%, and those in the South West, 53% to 47%, also showed a big loss in faith with motorway surfaces. Drivers in and around London and in the North East showed the greatest satisfaction, both areas with 56% of users rating the road surface good.

Residential roads much worse

At the other end of scale, only 17% of AA members rated their residential roads as good and only 21% praised the quality of road surface on main roads in their area. However, whether government road repair funds made an impact or drivers just have low expectations of the quality of their local roads, the AA’s November to March satisfaction monitor shows less of a negative swing than at motorway level.

Local and main roads

Across the UK, AA members prepared to rate local roads good fell 2% (down from 19% in November) over the winter compared to the 3% decrease on motorways. On local main roads, there was no change in opinion among those happy with the road surfaces – 21% before and 21% after.

In the North East, North West, Wales, East Anglia and South West, AA members were also expressing a slightly more positive opinion of their residential roads by the end of the winter, with fewer rating them poor.

Problem areas

But there are still obvious road surface problem areas: both East and West Midlands showing a 3%-4% fall in good ratings for residential roads matched by similar increases for bad ratings. The East Midlands is also the only area to see poor ratings for the quality of local main roads get significantly worse, with 21% of AA members giving them the thumbs down in November and 25% in March.

Residential roads in the South East have also seen driver opinion swing to the worse over the winter, with 3% more of AA members from the area rating them bad at the end of winter compared to the start.

There have been rumblings of discontent about the quality of road surfaces on motorways recently and this AA research confirms that

Edmund King, AA president

Rumblings of discontent

“There have been rumblings of discontent about the quality of road surfaces on motorways recently and this AA research confirms that. The shame is not that they are in a pitiful state, unlike some roads in the UK, but that their shining image as the way UK roads should be has become somewhat cracked,” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.

Pothole repairs delayed

“In the past, any perilous pothole on a motorway would be quickly patched up whereas now some of the potholes are saved up and repaired in sections. This might be more cost effective but it puts motorcyclists and low profile tyres at risk.”

King adds: “With all the money from central government to repair roads, we wanted to see if AA members would notice a difference in road quality between the start and end of the winter. It may be a matter of drivers having low expectations after years of potholes and disrepair but, in most areas at residential and main street level, driver opinion is at least the same if not better. There are, however, a couple of glaring exceptions."

Lack of coherent plans

The AA wants all parties to give motorists a fair return for all the tax they pay, which amounts to 10% of all UK tax. So far we have heard plans for hikes to fuel duty, Vehicle Excise Duty, delayed road schemes and completed schemes re-announced rather than coherent plans for reducing congestion and delivering safe, well-maintained roads.

There have been promises about “pothole” funds which are welcome but come nowhere near the £12bn it is estimated to put the roads back into a decent condition.

We urge AA members to question all candidates on their transport polices and encourage them to support our #Vote4BetterRoads campaign.


(27 April 2015)

*AA Populus surveys (October 2014 and March 2015): On a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is terrible and 10 excellent, how would you rate the condition of surfaces on different types of road (residential streets, main roads, trunk roads, motorways) close to where you live?