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UK road quality could be on the rise, RAC data finds

RAC patrols dealt with fewer pothole-related breakdowns in first quarter of 2019 than in the same period last year – suggesting a possible improvement in the quality of UK roads.

The organisation resolved a total of 3,276 call-outs for damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels in the first quarter of 2019 – down 40% on the total of 5,540 for Q1 2018.

And although the Q1 figure was nearly double the 1,700 seen in both the last two quarters (Q3 and Q4 2018) it is considerably lower than normal for the first quarter of the year, which normally sees the highest number of these types of breakdowns due to the freezing winter conditions.

Key factors for this include mild winter weather in much of the country alongside extra funding for councils in the Chancellor’s 2018 Budget.

Drivers are still 2.3 times more likely to suffer a breakdown from hitting a pothole than they were in the base year of 2006 according to the RAC Pothole Index, but this is down from 2.5 in Q4 2018 and is also the lowest index score since Q2 2017 when drivers were 2.2 times more likely to encounter a pothole than 13 years ago.

The RAC said that increased local authority highway maintenance funding – as shown by data from the Asphalt Industry Alliance – seems to be making a difference but it continued its calls for funding from vehicle excise duty to be set aside for local roads; although the National Roads Fund will come into operation in April 2020, the £6bn that will be collected from VED each year will only be ring-fenced for maintenance and improvement on the strategic and major road network.

RAC Breakdown spokesperson Simon Williams said: “While it is clearly good news funding will be in place for our strategically significant roads, we feel a similar fund for local roads is needed to tackle the long-term backlog of maintenance. The Asphalt Industry Alliance estimate the one-off cost of bringing roads in England and Wales back to a fit-for-purpose state to be £9.79bn.

“A sum of this scale could easily be generated over a period of 10 years by ring-fencing a small proportion of existing fuel duty revenue charged on every litre of petrol and diesel sold which brings in around £27bn for the Government annually.”

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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