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‘Swiss Cheese’ UK Roads in Terminal Decline

Local roads in England and Wales are in terminal decline with one in six (17 per cent) in poor condition, according to a new report by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

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AIA’s study found that decades of underfunding, increased traffic and wetter winters will mean that the roads "will not be fit for purpose in five years' time".

For the last few years, the pendulum has swung away from finding councils at fault for these kind of cases because the courts have some sympathy with the fact that they are working with limited resources. Eventually though, this will catch up with them and courts will lose patience with them if they routinely fail to satisfy their legal duties. In the meantime, it is long suffering road users, in vehicles, on bikes and pedestrians, who will end up paying the price.

The AIA's annual road maintenance survey found that the number of potholes filled by councils fell by 19 per cent in England last year, with the biggest drop in London at 43 per cent. Wales saw an increase of 19 per cent.

This latest survey only confirms what road users know already from their own experience. That is, that councils and other highway authorities are falling further and further behind with repair and maintenance and our roads are becoming increasingly dangerous.

The legal duty remains the same under the Highways Act, that is to maintain the highway at public expense.



The council or highway authority will have a defence to a claim under the relevant legislation if they can show that they have a reasonable inspection and maintenance regime in place and it’s this requirement that they are struggling with. The issue is simply one of lack of money, due to cutbacks. 

The Department for Transport has committed £6 billion for English councils to improve local roads over the current Parliament, in addition to a £50 million-a-year fund specifically for tackling potholes.

Plans have been made for high-definition cameras to be fitted to council bin lorries to spot road surface problems which can be treated before they become potholes.

For further information regarding a local authority’s duty to repair potholes, see our earlier blog: When is a Pothole Not a Pothole?


Michael Hardacre is a principal lawyer, specialising in personal injury at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

For a free consultation about claiming for an injury caused by a pothole – either as a driver, cyclist or pedestrian – call Slater and Gordon Lawyers 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online.

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