Potholes – Fix Our Roads to Boost the Economy
James Barwise, RHA Policy advisor sets out on National Pothole Day (Monday 15 January) why fixing potholes is vital to support the industry and boost the economy.
Almost everything we eat, drink, wear, or use comes to us by road freight. Everything from the materials used to build the homes we live in, to the electronic device you may be reading this article on, to all the groceries and household goods in your local supermarket, has at some point been transported on a road by an HGV.
As such, our road network is central to both our economy and our lives, but you wouldn’t have thought as much from the lack of care and attention it receives. Our highways are not in the state they should be, and to add insult to injury, the drivers that transport these vital goods do not have the facilities they need to do their jobs safely.
Across the country, we see roads in disrepair, with the latest figures from the RAC showing a record high in pothole-related vehicle breakdowns. There is also insufficient capacity on the network to accommodate current travel demand – let alone meet the demand which expected in the future.
The Department for Transport has forecast a 55% increase in traffic and 85% increase in congestion by 2040 – without significant intervention, the cumulative cost of congestion will exceed £300 billion by 2030. The consequences of not addressing this have significant economic consequences for the nation.
The RHA welcomes the government’s recent announcements around the £8bn worth of funding to repair potholes. However, it is important that this funding is ringfenced and paired with other funding sources. If local authorities are provided with the tools to get on with the job, the cost of repairing potholes decreases considerably.
The results of the 2022 ALARM survey demonstrated a considerable disparity in costs, with planned works costing an average of 35% less than reactive repairs in England (£46 planned; £71 reactive) and 57% less in Wales (£45 planned; £105 reactive). Councils have warned that the full cost of repair to our network is around the £14bn mark, and this funding as such may only cover reactive rather than planned works.
We call upon the government to continue supporting local authorities, not just with releasing further funding, but providing training and access to new technologies, which can result in repairs which are longer lasting and more cost-efficient.
And so, on National Pothole Day, we welcome how the government is slowly waking up to the problem, but far more needs to be done for us to deliver a road network which our drivers deserve.