Thousands of drivers suffered pothole-related breakdowns between April and June despite traffic volumes plummeting amid the coronavirus lockdown, new figures show.
One of the UK’s major breakdown rescue firms, the RAC, said it received 1,766 call-outs for vehicles damaged by faulty road surfaces over the three months.
It described the figures as “a real cause for concern” as Government data shows motor traffic volumes fell by as much as 60% during that period due to lockdown restrictions.
Some 1.1% of all breakdowns were related to potholes, such as vehicle failures caused by distorted wheels, broken suspension springs or damaged shock absorbers.
This was down from 1.6% in the first quarter of the year but was identical to the figure for the same period in 2019, indicating that road surface quality did not significantly improve over the past 12 months.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said he expected to see a sharper fall in the proportion of breakdowns attributed to potholes.
This is because motorists made fewer and shorter trips during the lockdown, and local authorities had the opportunity to fix more road problems while there was less traffic than normal.
Mr Lyes said: “On the surface, these statistics appear encouraging because they make it seem as though the quality of our roads hasn’t worsened, but when you consider how few vehicles were on the road, they are a real cause for concern.
“We would have hoped to have seen a far bigger drop in the share of pothole-related breakdowns than we would do normally at this time of year, but instead it was just the same as usual.
“We were very surprised by how many of these call-outs we dealt with during lockdown considering the vast majority of our work in this period was helping motorists with flat batteries at home as a result of vehicles being used so little.
“Those who did need our assistance away from home between April and June must have been very annoyed that their vehicle had been unlucky enough to have fallen victim to a pothole, particularly as many local authorities took advantage of the quieter roads during lockdown to repair poor road surfaces.”
David Renard, the Local Government Association’s transport spokesman, said: “Fixing our roads is a top priority for councils.
“Despite the circumstances during the coronavirus pandemic, councils have been working hard to fix potholes and repair road surfaces as well as supporting the increase in cycling infrastructure through temporary road measures.
“Extra Government funding has helped but our local roads are deteriorating at a faster rate than can be repaired by councils. It would cost more than £11 billion to clear our current roads repair backlog.
“With devolved infrastructure and transport budgets and long-term funding, councils can improve our roads and deliver the infrastructure improvements that allow people to move around in less carbon intensive and more sustainable ways.”