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Local road condition on a slippery slope, say drivers

Half of drivers (49%) say the condition and maintenance of local roads has deteriorated over the past 12 months, leading to growing resentment over road taxes.

The research, carried out for the 2019 RAC Report on Motoring, finds that potholes and related road-surface problems are mainly to blame for the worsening conditions, although there is also rising dissatisfaction over grass and foliage maintenance on local roadsides, with 22% of drivers saying this is one reason conditions are worse. There has also been a doubling in the proportion of motorists who say signage visibility on local roads has deteriorated (8% to 17%).

The research also found that drivers based in rural locations are almost 10% more likely to say their local road conditions have worsened in the past 12 months (rural 58% v UK average 49%). In comparison, 25% of London-based motorists say conditions are in fact better this year – while across the UK, the average is 11%.

The research also highlights a growing sense of resentment among eight in 10 drivers (83%) – equating to some 31 million people – who say the quality of roads should be better given the amount of tax they hand over to the Government every year.

Almost as many drivers (77%) favour having at least a chunk of their existing motoring taxes ring-fenced to fund local road maintenance.

A report published in July 2019 by the Transport Committee called for long-term funding solutions to enable local authorities to better maintain roads under their control. According to the report, local government revenue funding has fallen by about 25% since 2010 and with no ring-fencing for local roads funding, cash-strapped authorities have diverted the money to plug other gaps such as social care, leaving them to take short-term, reactive decisions on road maintenance, impacting drivers and cyclists.

A response to the report was published by the Department for Transport just days before the general election was announced and pledged to press the Treasury for extra roads cash in the next Spending Review, with the RAC welcoming the call at the time.

The 2019 RAC Report on Motoring research also highlighted widespread support among motorists for the Government’s plans to use all money collected from Vehicle Excise Duty for the new National Roads Fund: 72% think this is a good idea.

From 2020-21, vehicle excise duty (VED) receipts will be ringfenced for use on strategic and major routes to increase capacity on the network to future-proof anticipated increased traffic volumes as well as to improve maintenance.

However, while the research finds growing resentment over road taxes, it also unearths a notable fall in the percentage of motorists who think local roads have got worse – in the RAC’s 2018 survey, the proportion was 66% compared with this year’s 49%. These figures chime with the findings of the RAC’s Pothole Index which show that RAC patrols are attending fewer pothole-related breakdowns than they have done previously. In the third quarter of 2019 call-outs for damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels equated to just 0.8% of all RAC breakdowns. In this period there were 8,823 of these pothole-related breakdowns – 62 fewer than between April and June, and nearly 5,400 fewer than the 14,220 seen in the same quarter in 2018.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “The state of our roads is always one of the biggest bugbears for drivers.

“We believe local roads are just as vital to the UK’s economy so should be treated in a similar way which would allow local authorities to plan routine maintenance rather just filling in potholes as they appear.”

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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