Page last updated at 05:51 GMT, Thursday, 30 April 2009 06:51 UK

'Fifteen year' potholes backlog

Road resurfacing Photo: David Lutwyche
A road being resurfaced in Cardiff Photo: David Lutwyche

The safety of drivers on Welsh roads is being put at risk due to a lack of funding for maintenance, it is claimed.

It would take more than 15 years to repair all 94,000 potholes, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA).

The AIA said the vast majority of Welsh councils believed under-funding was threatening road users' safety.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) said councils spent millions each year to ensure roads were safe but there was a backlog of repairs.

In Wales and England, there is one hole every 110m (120 yards) of road, with £8.5bn needed to bring the condition of roads up to scratch, said the AIA following its survey of councils.

A pothole in a road

Total number of potholes in Wales: 94,000
Average potholes per authority: 4,263
Cost to fill one pothole: £46
Average cost to "catch up" per authority: £22.3m
Total cost to catch up: £490.6m
Time to clear backlog: 15.6 years
Road length in Wales: 19,992 miles (32,173km)
Number of cars in Wales: 1.4m
Figures: Asphalt Industry Alliance

Local authorities in Wales are responsible for maintaining about 95% of the road network in Wales while the assembly government looks after motorways and major trunk roads.

The AIA, which was established in 2000 to promote the asphalt industry, said almost nine out of 10 local authorities in Wales believed there was a threat to road users' safety due to under-funding of maintenance.

AIA chairman Mike Linley said: "Allowing our roads to deteriorate into such a condition is irresponsible on several levels.

"Local authority highway departments should not have to bear the brunt of public complaints when they are the ones who have the will and expertise to get our roads fixed.

"The situation could be resolved relatively swiftly by finding funding solutions that bring the bonus of creating more jobs around the country."

Mr Linley said potholes also disrupted the flow of traffic, making roads less environmentally friendly and less safe.

"Vehicles that have to constantly stop and start generate more emissions and, with a road opening or pothole every 120 yards, free-flowing traffic seems like an impossible dream," he said.

The AIA also said the lifespan of roads was being reduced by the large number of trenches dug into roads for cables and pipes.

There are more than 100,000 of these trenches in Wales, an average of more than 4,600 in each local authority area.

The WLGA said Welsh councils spent millions carrying out repair and maintenance work on roads which included filling potholes.

"However, Welsh councils recognise that there is a backlog of repairs needed. Indeed, the Welsh Assembly Government has also recognised this and in 2007-08 committed an additional £15m per year for investing in highways maintenance," said a WLGA spokesperson.

"Whilst this investment has gone a long way to improving the condition of Welsh roads, unfortunately the assembly government has indicted that this funding will finish this financial year leaving a major hole in councils' budgets.

"The WLGA will ensure that the concerns of Welsh councils are heard in Cardiff Bay ahead of this year's financial settlement and will make the case for continued funding so that councils can deliver the further improvements that are still needed."

Good condition

The assembly government said it provided an annual block grant to local authorities for all their services and it was up to each council to set its own priorities.

"The latest results from the local road maintenance model indicate that the primary network in almost all authorities is in good condition, having achieved or exceeded their targets," said an assembly government spokesperson.

"This has been achieved through assembly government grant monies and the local authorities' own resources."

The spokesperson said that since 2007, the assembly government had offered extra financial support through a £15m per year road maintenance grant.

Conservative transport spokesman David Melding said: "Councils need to act fast to try and rectify the situation so they do not end up spending more money than is necessary on road maintenance.

"But with an ever-increasing strain on local government finances, I understand difficult decisions must be made on which areas to prioritise spending on."

Tell us about any problems you have had with potholes on roads. Are there increasing numbers of potholes in your area and are they dangerous? Send us your comments and pictures.

How insensitive of some of the comments. The potholes cannot be avoided if there is flood water all over the road that the Council cannot be bothered to remedy how are you supposed to see them???? As someone who has lost someone from their life as a result of this, it is important that future deaths are avoided. Just because roads are worse in other countries does not mean ours are acceptable. We have a right to travel safely on our roads.
Bereaved, England

I can't take this article seriously. You should see the roads here in Malta, they make British roads look amazing!
Neil McLoughlin, Malta & Liverpool

We have just had a major road safety scheme introduced on Cwmamman Road, where the white lines were all taken up and then repainted in different locations to 'aid safety'. The result is that where the lines were burnt off, there are deep grooves in the road and the new road layout is dangerous, not safer. So they could have saved the money and used it to fill in potholes, but instead they created potholes and created a dangerous road! Glad my money is being well spent!
Gareth, Garnant, Wales

This confirms my suspicions, roads have long gone in Wales they do not exist. What does exist is a series of holes surrounded by tarmac
Steve, Tredegar Gwent

I am constantly looking out for potholes in London its become very dangerous. I am not able to constrate on whats going on ahead. Why do we pay road tax? What is road tax for?
steve, London Balham

Potholes are only a problem to drivers who are not paying attention. If we all watched the road & drove accordingly we wouldn't have half the problems. Having driven in rural Canada where "frost heave" can cause the road surface to rise to a level where if your not looking your vehicle can become grounded! any problems we have are minor.

Its also the best way of slowing traffic down?

j.raithby, lincolnshire

Very strange how we have a 15yr backlog to fill potholes in welsh roads, when the clowns in charge can find huge sums of money to build great big humps in the roads which damage cars to the extent that a 3 year old car I was driving required a new steering rack because of the dam SAFETY HUMPS although they are so designed that buses speed over them as they fit nicely between their wheels. Need we say anymore the inmates are running the asylum in GB
Norman, Cardiff

j.raithby, lincolnshire, potholes are not only a problem for drivers not paying attention, some potholes cannot be avoided due to their size and location or are you suggesting that we should drive on the wrong side of the road or on the pavements to avoid them, no i don't think so! Potholes need to be repaired to avoid accident and expensive repair bills to vehicles being damaged by them, as a nation we already spend too much money to be able to drive on the road as it is what with a car purchase, rfl, insurance, petrol and general upkeep so why shouldn't motorists expect to have a road surface that's not covered in potholes.
pritchard, merthyr tydfil

Round here potholes are quite rare, apart from one place that will be well known to anyone traveling between Aberystwyth and Machynlleth, that is the Glandyfi stretch of the A487. The road surface here is breaking up and because its the main route for going north/south (often used by HGVs) and also VERY narrow it'll never get fixed as the road would have to be totally closed for the duration. When will the WAG spend the money needed to bypass this national disgrace?
Rhydian, Machynlleth, Powys

the roads here in pembrokeshire are so bad that i had to replace the suspension on my car after only 12000 miles makes me feel like not paying the road tax
alison regan, haverfordwest wales

A pothole every 120 yards?? Come to Pembroke Dock, we got potholes every 12 feet! We got large ones, small ones, deep ones, shallow ones - Heck, we even got potholes in potholes.For the last 30 years, I always knew when I was home because the roads are always awful in PD. P'haps we should all get 4x4's, that way the government gets more road tax, we don't wreck our vehicles so much, the local authority can spend less on roads which leads to everyone being a winner. NOT!
Wacky, Pembroke, west Wales

I live 3/4 of a mile from the town centre, to get there I have to pass over 17 road bumps ( so called calming measures ) prior to this, to drive to the end of my street (approx 80 yards) I have to negotiate 59 potholes,,, having said that it doesn't cost the local authority anything to produce the potholes so maybe we should get a reduction on our council tax !!!
R.Morgan, Abergavenny, Monmouthshire

Road tax should be spent on exactly that, cost arrising from the use of motor vehicles. Somehow the government seems to think its free money to do with as they wish. As an ex firefighter I can confirm pot holes are dangerous and do indeed cause accidents many very serious. Also this rediculous claim that pot holes are a good way of slowing traffic seems to forget how dangerous a pot hole can be to a biker. Also i must agree that our eyes should be looking at other traffic and pedestrians not scouring the road pot holes that we must swerve to avoid. Also as a final thought, as pot holes are damaging to vehicle suspention and we pay for the roads to be maintained. Should we have to pocket the mechanics bill?
Biker, Cardiff

Losing a child to the condition of the road is reason enough for all maintenance to be carried out. My son died on such a road when his motorbike was caught up in a flooded road due to a damaged drain, these flood waters covered the poorly maintained road surface and potholes. I have to live with the fact that i still pay my taxes, just has he did and i will never see him again. Time for action and our road tax to be spent wisely.
Peplow, Middleton, Manchester

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