Every now and again it’s nice to have something which you’re convinced is true confirmed by objective data. After all, most of the time it works the other way round; summers didn’t used to be longer, police officers aren’t getting younger and they do make films like they used to. If you’re a regular user of the UK road system, however, particularly it’s more remote highways and byways, then you’ll doubtless be gladdened to hear that something which you find yourself thinking every time you sit behind a steering wheel has recently been backed up by two major surveys. That’s right; the UK’s roads are in a terrible condition.
Blame it on more cars, blame it on cash-strapped local councils or blame it on more frequent bouts of extreme weather. Whatever the culprit (the correct answer being – all three) there’s no mistaking the terrible state of some of the UK’s roads, and in particular the minor roads. You barely need more evidence if you drive on a regular basis, of course, since the available evidence tends to be smacking you in the rear end every time you go through yet another pothole, not to mention appearing on the bills you have to pay for new tires or to have your shock absorbers replaced.
There is evidence out there, however, and the picture it paints is of a situation which isn’t set to improve any time soon. The Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey was published earlier this year and the headline finding was stark to say the least; returning our road network from its current state of disrepair to an acceptable condition would cost nearly £12billion and take 14 years. Further findings included the fact that local councils filled in more than 2 million potholes during the course of the previous twelve months, at a cost of £118.4million, and that this came against a backdrop which saw highways departments having their budgets cut by 16%.
Nor should it be supposed that this survey captures 2015 as being a particularly bad year in terms of our roads. The RAC has just published a study based on the number of times they had been called out to deal with pothole related incidents during the last decade, and these figures suggest that UK road surfaces have become significantly worse during the 10 years in question. The survey dealt with breakdowns caused by factors such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension rings and badly impaired wheels, and found that the ten years in question had seen a massive 125% rise in such cases.
According to RAC Chief Engineer David Bizley, the findings of the survey indicate that short term funding boosts intended to deal with bouts of extreme weather were not enough to solve the underlying issue of poor road surfaces. Whilst the governments Road Investment Strategy was welcomed for its focus on ring-fencing funding for the repair of main A roads and motorways, the fact that most journeys begin and end on smaller local roads means that drivers seem set to continue facing poor conditions and potential vehicle damage on a virtually daily basis. Although, if it’s any consolation, chocolate bars did used to be bigger.