The extent of the pothole crisis has been laid bare by a report showing that the “catch-up” cost of getting the local road network back into reasonable condition has soared to £12 billion.
The total is an increase on the £10.5 billion figure reported last year and remains high despite more than two million potholes being filled in in England and Wales over the last 12 months.
From the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), the figures showed that local authorities in England said the cost of restoring roads to a reasonable condition had risen 30% since last year to an average of £90 million per authority.
This was despite a 20% decrease in the shortfall in annual road maintenance budgets reported by local authorities, with the shortfall reducing from an average of £6.2 million to £5.1 million per authority in England.
The figures were greeted with alarm by motoring groups and also by the Local Government Association (LGA) which said the country was facing a “roads crisis escalating at an alarming pace”.
The AIA also reported that the number of compensation claims for personal injury or damage to vehicles has increased by 20% over the last year to an average of 540 for each local authority in England (excluding London where the figures remain the same as the previous year) and 141 for councils in Wales.
The total cost of compensation claims due to poor road condition, including the cost of staff time spent processing them, amounted to £31.6 million across England and Wales over the last year.
Payouts on claims accounted for only £16.6 million of this, with the remaining £15 million (up from £13 million) being staff costs incurred by local authorities processing claims.
The AIA said that much of the pothole work done over the last 12 months had been counteracted by the ultra-high winter 2014 rainfall level.
The Alliance added that as many as 65% of local authorities in England were affected by the winter deluge.
At the time the survey on which the report was based, most authorities were unable to estimate the cost of damage to their networks, with many roads still under water.
In his Budget last month, Chancellor George Osborne announced an extra £200 million to repair potholes.
Commenting on the report, AIA chairman Alan Mackenzie said: “These figures are disappointing for everyone who has worked hard together on the highway maintenance efficiency programme initiated by the Department for Transport.
“It’s thanks to this programme that so many highways departments have successfully made the case to their councils to invest in more repair to avoid further deterioration and costs.
“To see that work washed away is discouraging to say the least.”
RAC technical director David Bizley said: “”It’s extremely worrying there is such a large disparity between the AIA’s £12 billion estimate to bring roads up to standard in one fell swoop and the average amount of just under £1 billion the Department for Transport plans to spend on local road maintenance in England, outside London, until 2021.“
The AA said a survey of nearly 24,000 of its members showed that while 29% had reported their local roads to be in a terrible condition in October 2013, the figure had risen to 40% by March 2014.
AA president Edmund King said: “Our new data, along with the AIA Survey, shows that Britain’s roads are ill-prepared for the economic recovery and unfit for purpose for many road users, such as cyclists and motorcyclists.
“It is unacceptable that each winter, whether it is frost or rain, our roads are crumbling and give way too easily.”
Peter Box, the chairman of the LGA’s economy and transport board, said: “Councils have long warned that our already dilapidated road network could not cope with another extreme winter and the unprecedented recent flooding experienced across the country has left behind a trail of destruction to our highways.”
He said that the promised extra Government funding was “simply not enough” and that the country was “facing a roads crisis escalating at an alarming pace with every bout of severe weather and following years of underfunding.”