Crumbling Roads and Potholes

Drivers face new road menace following the snow

Emergency road maintenance funding is required to deal with crumbling roads

13 January 2010

Emergency road maintenance funding is required to stop crumbling roads costing more in compensation and accidents, according to the AA today.

Drivers who think they will be in the clear after the thawing of the snow will find an aggravated plague of potholes to contend with in the coming months, the AA has also warned.

Last February's heavy snow pushed up insurance claims for pothole damage by more than 250%.

Repairing the potholed roads will cost local highway authorities hundreds of millions of pounds. If the roads are not repaired then drivers, cyclists and motor bike riders will be at risk from expensive damage and injuries.

Insurance companies will be hit and more claims and potential injuries will add to NHS costs – already hit by the increase in fractured bones as a result of icy pavements.

Cash-strapped councils could well face a deluge of claims from road users and the risk of paying out more in compensation than on road repairs themselves.

Worst areas for potholes

The AA argues that the worst areas for potholes will be:

  • stretches of road where potholes have been poorly repaired in the past
  • stretches of road where utility reinstatements have been poor
  • stretches of road that have not been salted as salt tends to melt the snow before it turns to ice
  • stretches of road hit by consistent sub-zero temperatures

National interest

The AA believes that in the national interest there is a strong case for emergency extra maintenance funding for councils to head off the threat of the vicious circle of compensation claims and hospital costs outweighing the cost of repair to the roads.

Last year's ALARM1 survey of local authority highway departments found that more than £63 million was spent filling in potholes during 2008/9. However, a further £47 million was lost to compensation claims and extra staff costs.

Even without the impact of February's bad weather, the number of potholes in England and Wales had increased 32 per cent over the previous year.


The pothole season has come early this year Edmund King, AA President, said: "The pothole season has come early this year. Drivers will be relieved when the snow has gone but shouldn't be complacent. Due to the severe winter, it could be a record year for potholes – a million scars of the worst winter in 30 years.

"We believe that emergency funding is required to stop the vicious circle of crumbling roads costing more in compensation, accident claims and hospital admissions. We are asking road users to report potholes on the AA Zone."

Potential damage

The AA is already getting a lot of calls from members and patrols about potholes. Hitting a pothole can damage the tyre, wheel, suspension or steering or even cause an accident. They can be dangerous for drivers and potentially lethal for those on two wheels.

Over time, cracks appear in the road surface, so when water seeps in, it freezes and expands, widening the crack. We are concerned that, with local authorities already stretched due to the drain of the winter, there will not be enough in the purse to heal our ravaged roads.


1 The ALARM Survey report is downloadable from

  • One-time cost to catch up of dealing with road maintenance backlog – £53m per authority in England, £38.3m per authority in London, £22.3m per authority in Wales
  • 968,195 potholes filled over last year
  • Average cost to fill one pothole £65
  • £63.2 million spent filling potholes last year
  • £47 million paid out in compensation claims & staff costs
  • 13,212 deep trenches per authority (England)
  • 1 hole in every 120 yards of road

To cope with lack of salt the AA is calling for local authorities to:

Action required

  • Ask more farmers with tractors to snow plough the roads
  • Mix sand with salt to make it go further and provide more grip on roads
  • Use parking attendants and other contractors to clear ice from footpaths, access to railway stations and town centres
  • Be upfront about which roads are being gritted and to publish maps showing gritted areas in green and non-gritted areas in red

Join the discussion in the AA zone


14 January 2010