£32 million in claims for vehicle damage!

Asphalt Industry Alliance annual survey ALARM, released today, highlights that £32 million was paid out last year in claims for vehicle damage caused by pot holes. Think of the consequences for bikers!

According to the report, which canvasses information from Local Councils, swathes of Britain’s road network risks becoming permanently strewn with potholes unless government invests now in proper resurfacing, council leaders are warning.

New research shows that last year highways teams fixed 2.2 million potholes, 500,000 more than the year before. However, despite their best efforts the backlog in repairs is growing longer, now estimated at £10.5 billion, and one-in-five roads are classed as being in ‘poor condition’.

The annual ALARM survey of council transport bosses reported the average English authority was £6.2 million short of what it needed to properly maintain its roads, up from £5.3 million in 2011. It also found the road damage cost to councils of last year’s flooding was £338 million.

Compounding matters is the spiralling cost of compensation to drivers whose vehicles get damaged by potholes. Councils paid out £32 million last year, 50 per cent more than 2011. A hole which can damage the suspension of a car is potentially lethal for motorcyclists, especially at night. Even if damage to suspension didn’t directly cause a motorcycle accident, deflection into oncoming traffic would have serious repercussions.

The IAM have revealed that almost a third of all the 70,000 motorists they recently surveyed said that their vehicles had sustained damage recently from road surface irregularities.

The Local Government Association, (LGA) which represents more than 370 councils across England and Wales, is warning that should councils (already bearing the brunt of public sector cuts including a reduction in their highways maintenance budgets), be stripped of even more funding, many may find it impossible to keep on top of road repairs.

The LGA’s calling on government to free up existing money and invest it in properly resurfacing the current network. This will not only allow councils to pay for resurfacing projects to make roads safer and save billions of pounds in the long term – reactive repairs are 20 times more expensive than laying a good quality surface which lasts for many years – but also boost jobs and growth in the short-term. A good quality surface is also far more resistant to flood and ice damage.

All riders know how dangerous and yet ineffectual, tar and loose chippings can be and the LGA’s report mirrors what MAG, through the Get A Grip campaign, has been repeatedly saying.

Localis, the independent think tank which concentrates on local government issues, reported last month that government could be getting 2.5 times the return on transport investment if it gave local authorities more freedoms and funding flexibility. It recommended the abolition of the Highways Agency and replacing it with sub-regional bodies which better know their areas.

Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said:

“We’re now facing a bill of £10.5 billion to bring our roads up to scratch. Unless something changes we risk swathes of Britain’s road network becoming dangerously strewn with potholes, particularly if flooding and severe winters become more common. Councils need increased and consistent funding to invest in the widespread resurfacing projects which our network desperately needs if we’re to see a long-term improvement. Notions that this can be paid for by council efficiency savings and smarter use of money are deeply unrealistic.

“Redirecting funding into road maintenance would also offer an instant boost to growth, improve road safety and save billions of pounds down the line from the current false economy of reactive repairs which many councils are trapped in.”

Last year, the Treasury announced Whitehall departments spent about £6.7 billion less than expected during 2011/12. The Department for Transport reportedly underspent by about £500 million. There was also a £2.34 billion capital underspend on infrastructure projects across government.

Danny Alexander, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has also asked each government department to set aside cash reserves worth five per cent of their budgets, or identify programmes that can be cut to provide the money, to pay for new initiatives or deal with unforeseen events. For the Department for Transport this would be about £650 million.

Examples of recent council efforts to manage potholes

Kent County Council’s highways team blitzed more than 2,000 potholes during February, and an extra £1.15 million has been invested in the county’s roads to help prevent more emerging. Crews will be carrying out six times more work with the launch of ‘Find and Fix 2013’ in March, where they will tackle every fault they find rather than just those that are safety-related. Kent’s crews have also nearly halved the time taken to fix a pothole once it’s been identified, from an average of 25 days in 2011 to just 14 days last year.

Staffordshire County Council has announced an additional £500,000 to repair potholes, on top of the £43.5 million it spends every year on roads maintenance. In the last six months it has identified 6,500 potholes, a 50 per cent increase on the previous year, which followed the county’s wettest year on record.

Nottinghamshire County Council is set to invest an extra £1 million on repairing the county’s road network in 2013/14 after the public said highway improvements were their top priority. The extra money will fund the repair of at least 5,000 extra potholes across the county, in addition to the 36,000 pothole repairs already made each year. Investment in new techniques and materials will ensure the repairs are of lasting, high quality.

Derbyshire County Council has announced a £824,000 boost to fix potholes across the county. External contractors are being brought in to help clear the backlog of urgent repairs caused by flooding and winter weather. The council is also hiring a ‘JetPatcher’ – a specialist machine which uses a high velocity air stream to clear existing holes of any debris and water as well as laying and compacting new asphalt.

Derbyshire, like Lincolnshire, are also now fitting MAG’s Diesel Spills Kill stickers to their vehicles to highlight that it’s not just holes that are a threat to riders.

Oldham Council has a new Velocity Patcher which is tackling potholes and improving the road network in a more effective and efficient way. The high-powered equipment, works by forcing the material into the pothole under high pressure, is cheaper than traditional methods and reduces disruption to traffic. It enables teams to undertake more repair work on each job and provide a ‘right first time fix’.

At the end of January, Croydon Council announced a new £100,000 winter pothole fund to support work to repair potholes caused by the snow and ice. Highways teams have been out inspecting the borough’s 2,500 roads to locate and fill in any new potholes. It’s encouraging residents to let them know about problem areas, as the Vale of Glamorgan Council is.