Road condition in England

Bad road drainage leaves councils, and drivers, in deep water

Bad road drainage leaves councils, and drivers, in deep water

Bad road drainage leaves councils, and drivers, in deep water

Drivers across the UK say road drainage is as bad this winter as the last one. But, without the excuse of last winter’s ‘biblical’ amounts of rainfall, councils are facing deeper resentment from motorists, AA research has found.

On 5 March 2015 the Government published its report on the condition of England’s roads – a key local election issue.

Half (50%) of 18,806 AA members polled in late January said that, where they live, heavy rain leaves roads pockmarked with pools of water that create a driving menace. Although this compares with 51% at the same time last year, those feeling strongly about the hazard have risen to one in five of all members.

Two-thirds of drivers (66%) argue that Councils don’t clear drains as well as they used to. This is almost the same as last winter (67%).

Losing patience

Most telling is the loss of patience among the drivers. Whereas, last January, 68% of them accepted that ‘puddles and pools of water on the road are much worse than they used to be but that’s to be expected given the extreme weather’, that level of sympathy with councils has crashed to 53% this winter.

National and regional

The extreme weather excuse has worn thinnest for local authorities in the North East (49% driver sympathy now v 69% last winter), West Midlands (50% now v 70% last winter), Wales (52% now v 70% last winter) and the South East (57% now v 75% last winter).

Rural parts of the UK, perhaps predictably, stand out as the worst areas for puddles, pools and small lakes on roads. However, the parity of the South East with these areas underlines the dismal condition of rainy roads in the most populated part of the country.

Alongside the South West, the clearing of drains in the South East is perceived by AA members to be the worst in the country.

Floods are no-go areas, while deep patches of surface water are passable but perilous for drivers, bikers and cyclists

Edmund King, AA president

More of a hazard

“Without last winter’s extensive flooding and ‘biblical’ levels of rainfall to drown out complaints of bad road drainage, this winter’s better weather has left councils high and dry to criticism of poor road maintenance,” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.

“Arguably, roads pockmarked by puddles and pools of water pose more of a hazard to more drivers than flooding - floods are no-go areas, while deep patches of surface water are passable but perilous for drivers, bikers and cyclists. They also hide the potholes road users might otherwise avoid.

“Potholes and the condition of the road surface may be the focus of The Department for Transport report on the condition of English roads but bad drainage can present a more extensive and potentially more damaging threat to UK drivers and their vehicles. A car that loses grip and goes off the road or blows its engine because air intakes suck up water become an insurance job. Councils are rarely held to account for this level of damage – unless someone is killed.”


(5 March 2015)