Half of Britain’s drivers believe the country’s roads are in a worse state now than they were a year ago.
According to the latest RAC Report on Motoring, the equivalent of 20 million motorists have seen a decline in conditions on local roads, with potholes and other surface damage causing the most concern.
As a result, more than three-quarters want to see funding set aside specifically to address the issue.
The annual study also found a clear split between town and country, and between local roads and motorways and major A roads.
While half of drivers are still dissatisfied the report represents an improvement on last year when 66 per cent said conditions had got worse. Overall this year, 49 per cent of drivers said that the condition of local roads had deteriorated in the last 12 months, 40 per cent though there had been no change and just 11 per cent thought there had been an improvement.
But in rural areas 58 per cent reported a drop in conditions while 38 per cent of town and city-dwellers agreed. Just over half of those living in the suburbs (52 per cent) had seen a decline.
There was also a clear divide by region, with motorists in the East Midlands the most likely to think roads had worsened (63.7 per cent). Close behind them came drivers in Scotland (57.6 per cent) and England’s North West (57 per cent), while London bucked the trend, with just 28.7 per cent seeing a decline and 25 per cent reporting an improvement.
The study found growing resentment among drivers, with 83 per cent – equivalent to 31m – believing that the roads should be in better condition given the amount they pay in tax and fuel duty. Almost as many (77 per cent) supported ring-fencing a portion of their motoring taxes to put towards local road maintenance.
The RAC’s head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said the results – including the improved opinions of motorways, where 28 per cent of drivers had seen a decline compared with 40 per cent in 2018 – showed there was a need to address the funding of road repairs.
He commented: “There is a very clear divide between opinions about the condition of local roads and motorways and dual carriageways with local roads appearing to be in a far worse state than their major road counterparts. This points towards the difference in the way both are funded with only major roads having certainty of funding from central government.
“We believe local roads are just as vital to the UK’s economy so should be treated in a similar way which would allow local authorities to plan routine maintenance rather just filling in potholes as they appear.”
Previously, the Government announced £30bn of revenue from vehicle excise duty would be earmarked for road improvements but that funding is to go to Highways England’s road improvement work on motorways and A roads, not local routes.
As in previous years, potholes and other surface damage remain a central problems for drivers, with 95 per cent of those who saw a decline highlighting them, but they’re no longer the biggest worry, with drivers using handheld phones and the cost of fuel both of more concern.
That feeling is echoed by RAC data that shows a clear drop in the number of pothole-related breakdowns its patrols have dealt with. In the third quarter of 2019 it handled 8,823 call-outs for damaged shock absorbers, suspension springs and distorted wheels, compared with 14,220 seen in the same quarter in 2018.
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Nicholas Lyes said: “The state of our roads is always one of the biggest bugbears for drivers. This year our research findings showed a third of drivers we surveyed listed the condition and maintenance of local roads as one of their top four concerns.
“Despite data from our patrols revealing fewer of the breakdowns they have attended this year have been related to pothole damage, it seems that drivers still feel that road surfaces are not as good as they should be. Those living in rural areas definitely feel more hard done by, perhaps because they rely on their cars more than those in towns and cities so they are more inclined to notice defects that hinder their journeys.”