The State Of Road Maintenance In The Uk Construction Essay

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The state of the roads in the United Kingdom has been deteriorating rapidly in recent years, more noticeably, since 2008. In the past decade, road maintenance seems to have become harder for local authorities to keep up to standard and, due to this, the road infrastructure is struggling to cope. One of the main causes of the poor road maintenance is due to the increase in the number of potholes present in our road infrastructure.

With the freezing temperatures that is occurring in the winter seasons in the United Kingdom, It is causing more road defects to become apparent. The process, which is the main cause of pothole creation is the freeze/thaw cycle. The processes involves water settling in cracks and fissures within the road surface and sometimes, the road sub-base, in the form of snow, rain etc. This is usually caused by the stress that is exerted on the road surface due to heavy traffic usage which will cause fatigue and weakens the road surface. As the temperature drops, this water will begin to freeze within these cracks. This will lead to an increase in volume due to the expansion of the water to ice. Due to this increase, it will force to cracks open or the road surface up (in the case of sub base ice) which deforms the road surfacing. When the temperature rises, the ice will melt back into water. This results in pockets of voids within the road surface and, when traffic move's over these pockets, they will not be able to within stand the weight of the vehicles and collapse creating potholes. If these small potholes are within a given time frame, they will increase in size due to traffic loosening the edges of the hole.

In 2009, it was reported that it was the first time there wasn't an increase in motor vehicles on UK roads (THE SOCIETY OF MOTOR MANUFACTURERS AND TRADES LIMITED, 2010). However, with more than 31 million cars on the road it may seem to make potholes more noticeable. It should also be noted that the rapid increase in vehicle use may be unexpected for some roads. As well as this increase in motor vehicles, another observation is that some of these roads were not built to handle the capacity which is now imposed upon them and is causing deterioration at a faster rate than they can be maintained (ORDNANCE SURVEY, 2011)

The cost of the repairs needed across the UK has escalated rapidly and it has brought a lot of publicity to the actions of the local authorities. It was estimated that in 1992 the pothole problem would be under control by 2002, but due to the increase in road traffic and slow progress of fixing the problem, it is now estimated that it will take until 2012 to get to a stage that it will be easier to maintain the pothole situation.**

The cost of fixing the average pothole in England and Wales during 2010 was between £46-78 (ASPHALT INDUSTRY ALLIANCE, 2010). And with the number of potholes filled in that year reaching almost 1.3 million for England and Wales, the cost for repairing potholes alone is between £59 million and £100.1 million (ASPHALT INDUSTRY ALLIANCE, 2010).It was also recorded that the road structural budget had a total shortfall of £802million for England and Wales alone.

For Scotland, the price per pothole has not been established however the scale of the problem is well known. Due to the severe winter conditions that have affected the roads network around Scotland, the Scottish government is offering an extra £15 million between the 32 local authorities to help with the unforeseen conditions (THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT, 2011). The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) welcomed the funding although noted that 'this is not a solution to a long term problem' (DALTON, Alastair, 2011). It is also expected that local authorities in Scotland will overspend on the budget by £60 million for road maintenance. It has also been documented that 7% of non-trunk roads are in a state of urgent repair with the cost of road maintenance as a whole standing at £120 million (DALTON, Alastair, 2011). In a report produced by Audit Scotland, they estimated that 'headline backlog of road maintenance is now estimated to be £2.25 billion.' (AUDIT SCOTLAND, 2011) The report then goes on to mention 'Councils and Transport Scotland consider it unlikely that they will ever have sufficient funds to remove all carriageway defects in one go.' (AUDIT SCOTLAND, 2011) These figures emphasise the scale of the problem that is present in Scotland's roads network and will have to strategize in order to fix these problems as early as possible. It is unrealistic to assume that all potholes and other road defects can be corrected to the point of perfect roads, but it is realistic to assume that the government and local authorities can propose plans to correct them over a given time scale.

The Northern Irish government have also announced they are going to provide an extra £8.5 million for road maintenance in the coming year which will help to fix potholes etc. There is no evidence of the cost of fixing the potholes and it is not known if this extra money will be allocated between local authorities or by the Northern Irish government (NORTHERN IRELAND INFORMATION OFFICE, 2011). This amount is significantly less than Scotland's extra funding however, the population of northern Ireland that have 1 to 2 cars is a 1/4 that of in Scotland (see Table 1). Although this doesn't show a trend for road maintenance, it shows that less vehicles would be traveling on the roads which could therefore lead to less maintenance.


Number of Households with 1 car or van

Number of Households with 2 cars or vans

Total number of cars or vans per Household





Northern Ireland




Table - Number of Cars or Vans per Household (THE SCOTTISH CENSUS, 2001) (NORTHERN IRELAND STATISTICS AND RESEARCH AGENCY, 2001)

From these figures above, it can be seen that almost all of the UK is affected by potholes with some places plagued more than others. It has now become such a nuisance that it is a regular topic of conversation both on the street and within the government. In a parliamentary debate on 28th of January 2010, Mr Phillip Dunne of the Conservative Party noted that 'a report produced last year, before the recent weather that has further damaged the road network, by the Asphalt Industry Alliance, which reported that there is a 13-year backlog of maintenance on our road network' (HOUSE OF COMMONS, 2010). This statement applies only to England and Wales, which leads to the question: what is the backlog for UK as a whole?

There was a survey conducted by the AA between 23 October and 12 November 2010 called the AA Street Watch (THE AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION LTD., 2011). In the survey, it was noted that more than 50% of people regarded potholes to be the most serious issue with regards to road network conditions within the UK. A graphical representation of the problem is illustrated in Fig. 1, with areas in red being ranked worst road conditions, and green being ranked best road conditions.

Figure - AA Street Watch Survey; Potholes

It can be seen from this figure, that Scotland remained the worst affected area with potholes. Although, it should be noted that in England, there were significant increases in pothole repairs with only one area achieving less progress than the rest of the country. It is also interesting to see that Northern Ireland has gone from top rank to bottom. However, this is not as important as it already had fewer potholes than the rest of the UK and therefore may not be as big an issue.

In regards to a solution to this on-going problem, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) suggest allowing local authorities to have asset management plans in place to allow for correct funding and resources to be available. They also call for 'local authorities to be reimbursed for the cost of road damaged by utility companies noting that a TRL report provides a basis for such charging.' By utility companies paying for the damage they impose on the roads due to excavation and resurfacing the AIA speculate 'this type of system (cost reimbursement) would make the cost of such work (utility excavation) transparent and help authorities to plan for the future' (ASPHALT INDUSTRY ALLIANCE, 2010). This seems like a fair proposal. If utility companies need under road access, they should be made to pay for the damage that is caused by their disruption and poor repair works. This would then decrease the need for a larger budget and possibly reduce the number of potholes created as a result of their poor repair work.


As well as the damage that potholes are doing to government spending, they also produce and even bigger threat to road users and pedestrians. Due to the un-even surfaced produced by these road faults, it causes cars to swerve to avoid them and get thrown off track by going through them. This is also the same scenario for cyclists using the roads which would seem to be a bigger to them than to motorists. This seems a reasonable assumption as motor vehicles have more safety precautions built-in, whereas cyclists only have a helmet at best.

Damage due to potholes is also a major contributor to people's anger. The damage is usually incurred by the vehicle and rarely the people involved. To understand the damage that is actually caused by potholes, I visited a local garage at the edge of Glasgow. When asked about the damage that pothole create on vehicles, Jamie Stewart responded 'The most common damage due to potholes is broken coil springs which average £80-£100 to fix'. It also raised the question of the frequency of repairs which was 'averaging 6 a week' (STEWART, Jamie, 2011).These replies show that potholes are a known contributor to vehicle damage and will only increase if the pothole problem isn't rectified.

Another point that people are all too aware of, is that the local authority of the area is responsible for maintaining the roads and therefore liable to pay for damages incurred due to potholes. In section 58 of the Highway Act 1980, it states 'In an action against a highway authority in respect of damage resulting from their failure to maintain a highway maintainable at the public expense it is a defence (without prejudice to any other defence or the application of the law relating to contributory negligence) to prove that the authority had taken such care as in all the circumstances was reasonably required to secure that the part of the highway to which the action relates was not dangerous for traffic.' (UNITED KINGDOM PARLIMENT, 1980)Although rather long winded, in essence it says that if you claim against a local authority or whoever is in charge of the road, it is there defence to prove that it was not dangerous to traffic. A typical process for claiming has been created by (WARRANTY DIRECT, 2011)

Gather evidence - Gather evidence of the pothole as soon as you hit it. As long as it's completely safe to do so, take photographs, measure the pothole's width and depth and note anything else about it, such as its position on a blind corner, whether it was hidden from view, etc.

Report the pothole - Report the pothole on and to the relevant council or highways agency - being a "good citizen" and helping other motorists will do your case no harm.

Submit a Freedom of Information Act - Submit a Freedom of Information Act to the relevant council or highways agency to find out how often the road is inspected and maintained.

Don't be deterred - If (or when!) your claim gets rejected under section 58 of the Highways Act, don't panic - this is to be expected and not the end of the story.

Read the national code

Make your claim - Stay calm at all times - remember when contacting a council that anything you say could be read out in court, so make sure you sound professional as much as you can and never lose your temper.

Analyse your council's practice - Highlight both where your council's maintenance programme mirrors the code and where it differs - this will help you consider how they may fight your claim

Consider your case carefully - Consider your case carefully - if the council's inspection policy mirrors the national code and they've followed what they are supposed to, your claim is unlikely to succeed.

Don't be hasty - Don't rush to issue Court proceedings or appoint a solicitor.

Be willing to negotiate - If an offer is made, be willing to negotiate and maybe accept less than you claimed for.

This seems like a very well thought out process and ensure that you won't say something that you may later regret. It is also very useful as it points you in the right direction for information which will allow you to understand what rules and regulations that the local authority in question, needs to abide by.

However, this process may only apply to England and Wales. After receiving answers to questions proposed to the Road Assets Manager for Glasgow City Council he claimed : "Thousands of claims are received but the majority are successfully defended. The Council is only liable if, once informed of the pothole or the pothole is identified by its regular inspection regime, it then fails to carry out repairs within its identified timescales, compliant with the Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance. Roads deteriorate, and the Council is not liable for emergent unreported defects. Local authorities have a statutory duty to make safe and repair potholes which are reported to them by members of the public or identified by local authority staff (e.g. during the course of the regular system of safety inspections which they undertake). Generally local authorities initially carry out an interim repair to make the pothole safe in the short term and thus remove their liability for public liability claims. If an Authority carries out regular inspections as outlined in the Code of Practice and can show that either no defect was noted at the inspection carried out prior to a claimant damaging their vehicle in a pothole, or that the reported pothole was repaired within the timescale as outlined in the Code of Practice, then the claim for damage will be unsuccessful." (MILNE, Bruce, 2011) This response has shown that although the process may be reasonable, it will not be possible to claim if the defect has been reported and is filled within the time frame specified in the Code of Practise, then a claim will not be successful. Although some people will disagree with this practise, it does seem logical. It would not be possible for every pothole to be instantly repaired. On the opposing argument, people shouldn't have to suffer because of Codes of Practise. I think a revision of this Code should be achieved, possibly stating that only severe damage should be paid, regardless of whether it has been reported.

It can be seen from the ALARM Survey 2010, that in the past 10 years that the number of claims in England and London have risen by 63% and 67% respectfully. However, these figures are expected to rise due to the severe winter that was experienced in the UK during December 2010. It also shows that Wales increase of compensation is only 22% however, when compared to the amount paid out in claims, the Welsh local authorities paid out on average more than double that of English Local Authorities (excluding London) (ASPHALT INDUSTRY ALLIANCE, 2010) in the past 12 months:


Average Amount Paid in Compensation per Local Authority

England (excluding London)






Table - Average Compensation Paid Out In a 12 Month Period (ASPHALT INDUSTRY ALLIANCE, 2010)

Staff time working on these claims also incurred a lot of expenditure:


Average no. of hours per month per authority

Average Staff/Outsourced cost per local authority per annum

England (excluding London)

210 hours



100 hours



151 hours


Table - Staff Time Spent on Work Related Claims (ASPHALT INDUSTRY ALLIANCE, 2010)

From the above table it can be seen that a substantial amount of money is being used just to process the claim. This table also conveys a comparison between the amount spent on claims and the amount spent on staff. Although for Wales it is noticeable less, England (excluding London) is only paying £42,000 less on staff processing the claim and they also spend the most amount of hours on claims (ASPHALT INDUSTRY ALLIANCE, 2010).


As previously discussed (SEE CHAPTER 1), the condition of the roads in Great Britain are rapidly deteriorating and cost of repair and maintenance is escalating. In England and Wales alone, it is estimated that it will take up to 13 years to restore British roads to their former stature (HOUSE OF COMMONS, 2010). However, it should be noted that this was also estimate ten years previous and the roads been deteriorating consistently throughout this period.

One of the contributing factors to road deterioration, is due to utility company works. Utility companies such as water, electric and gas companies, have a right to access their pipework through the roads. The local authorities have certain powers when dealing with utility companies, but "has little influence over the utility company's intention to dig up the road. The utility companies are required to serve a Notice of Works to the Council, however this can be as late as 2 hours after work has started (for emergency or urgent works)." (GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL, 2008) This seems like a reasonable process for excavating within the city. However, instead of constantly excavating and destroying the road surface, could it be possible for the utility companies to re-route the pipes under the footpaths instead? The Road Assets Manager for Glasgow City Council noted: "Utility openings lead to deterioration of carriageway pavements. Every opening is a potential location for the ingress of water. Although utility repairs require to be carried out in compliance with the New Roads & Street works Act, these excavations can cause irreparable damage to the structure of the pavement and contribute to the early overall failure of the pavement." (MILNE, Bruce, 2011) This suggests that utility companies are one of the main causes of highway deterioration. It also raises concern about how many openings are produced and re-filled in the UK. Last year there was an average of…….**

In Scotland, there is an argument about how utility companies may proceed in the future : "There is currently a debate at SCOTS (the Society for Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland) regarding giving greater powers for local authorities over utility companies in Scotland. If they were charged it may reduce the number of openings, however would also lead to increased charges for the utilities' consumers" (MILNE, Bruce, 2011) This argument has also be raised in the ALARM Survey (see Chapter 1) for England and Wales. The proposed idea suggests a more reasonable response than what is currently being used. Although it may lead to high consumer prices, it may also guide the utility companies to undertake long term repairs instead of temporary works which may need to be re-excavated at a later date.

Since there is an increasing demand from the public to fix the pothole crisis, councils are struggling to keep up with the repair work. This is resulting in inappropriate fixture of the problem which is resulting in the problem becoming greater. Instead of road defects being rectified, in some instances it is resulting in filling the pothole with loose material or not completing the repair to a good enough standard.

In Glasgow, some of the current methods for pothole repair reported by the Road Assets Manager (MILNE, Bruce, 2011), include:

Hot asphalt transported in a hotbox - requires to be compacted using a vibrating plate (a hotbox maintains the material at working temperature)

Jet patching - a proprietary machine which firstly blows compressed air into the pothole to remove excess water then fires small sized stones (3mm) and modified bitumen into the hole to form a self-compacting repair. Jet patch repairs allowed to settle on straight stretches of road can last for several years, but can suffer early deterioration, especially under the early action of wheels being steered e.g. at junctions and bus stops, which can rapidly screw out the freshly laid material, and in cold wet locations.

Cold bituminous material in tubs - off the shelf requiring no site compaction but can suffer similar problems to jet patch repairs

Delayed set material - requires to be compacted using a vibrating plate and to be left traffic free for a period of time

Proprietary cold material with water resistant properties (useful in difficult situations but too expensive to use as a general repair material)

These methods seem to be the standard for most local authorities. The reason behind these different methods is likely to do with cost association and as a result, are possibly a factor into poor road repairs. Mr Milne also commented "Temporary repairs to reported defects are Glasgow City Council's initial statutory response, as the roads authority for the city, to make defects safe in compliance with the Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance pending a programmed permanent repair being completed. As such, the lifetime of temporary repairs can vary since the material often requires to be laid in adverse, sometimes challenging, weather conditions, such as heavy rain, sleet, freezing temperatures or chilling winds, all of which can contribute to reducing the life of the repair." (MILNE, Bruce, 2011) This seems like a reasonable criteria to adopt even if it is statutory. However, it seems almost like an excuse for having poor repair works. Although the weather conditions and number of potholes could mean fast and inadequate repairs, it could also be due to the methods being used.

Manpower and cost of this method

Alternative methods

There has recently been research into alternative methods for road repairs, not only potholes but total resurfacing. This is due to calls for more eco-friendly practices but also, more long term and sustainable ones.

The Rhinopatch system is a 'proprietary infra-red road repair process'. It boasts that it is the only infra-red system to have achieved approval by the British Board of Approval (BBA) and the Highway Authorities Product Approval Scheme (HAPAS). The Rhinopatch process has been used by clients such as Sheffield City Council, Hertfordshire Council and London Ashford Airport as well as many others.

The Rhinopatch process has seven steps:

8-10 minutes of heating the affected area using one of the specialist machines

Working the softened material

Apply Rhinobinder rejuvenator

Add cold replacement material

Level and compact the cold material

Apply Rhinophalt preservative

Apply skid resistant dressing

This process in total should take around 15 minutes and is a permanent road repair. They calculated that the average pothole produces 91kg/m of Co2 emissions and with this process; it can be reduced by as much as 87%. It also has the benefits of noise reduction and minimal disruption to road users. An asset modeller for Transport for London quoted 'Even without the financial benefit, the environmental advantages (of Rhinopatch and Rhinophalt) are so much greater over traditional methods that it will be recommended for implementation' (ASI SOLUTIONS PLC., 2009). This shows that it is quickly gaining recognition across the UK and could soon be the standard practice for our major cities.

A case study in Association for Public Sector Excellence showed Dorset and Stoke-on-Trent councils implementing the use of the Nuphalt road repair system. The process is also an infrared heating process and I similar to the Rhinopatch system and equipment to fulfil the process is leased or rented. A representative for the authority, Andy Martin, noted "We have shown a saving of at least £5/m2 over traditional methods" although he mentioned this could increase depending on the extent of the pothole damage. It is mentioned that "All patches successfully survived a very wet and cold winter proving the viability of using a seamless repair system". This would mean that even with the coldest winter in decades at the end of 2010, these pothole repairs still held and therefore the money used to fix the road was not wasted. Personally, it seems that this process would be the way forward and it may be time to take a step back from the traditional method of repairing these road defects. At the end of the case study, the council commented "All in all we believe the Nuphalt system to be of great benefit to our highways section and would seek to extend beyond the time frame we have hired the equipment for, should funding permit." (ASSOCIATION FOR PUBLIC SERVICE EXCELLENCE, 2011)

As well as different processes being used, materials that are used to correct road defects could also be the problem. A product produced by the Instarmac Group Plc. Known as 'Permanent Pothole Repair' allows potholes to be filled in a variety of conditons. The reason that this product seems so viable as an alternative to traditional methods is due to


Having discussed the issue of potholes within the UK, it would seem more adequate to see how other countries handle the implications of potholes. By reading reports on road maintenance and budget requirements, it seems that most countries have the same issue with potholes, with few exceptions. This raised the question 'Are potholes actually beyond repair?' and 'Is there anywhere coping better than others?'

United States of America

The United States of America has the largest road network in the world, with … roads (Cia - world fact book). It would therefore seem that being one of the biggest economies which, in some parts, is reliant on the road network for transporting goods, would have a relatively high standard of roads to carry the traffic. This was originally not the case. In 1992, a report by Time Magazine investigated the cause of the vast number of potholes on the United States roads. One of the main issues that was addressed was the design life of the roads. It compared that "European highways are designed by their builders to last 40 years; the projected life of American roads is half as long" (VOORST, Bruce Van, 1992). It continues to speculate that "America built on the cheap" This would seem like the most likely consequence of the fast building of the road network with little consideration of design life. With a design life of 20 years, and the majority of North America's roads built during the "asphalt rush" during the 1950's (due to the Federal- Aid Highway Act, 1956), the design life of the road has already been exceeded.

Another contributing factor to the amount of potholes in USA roads is based around the design of the roads themselves. In the article by Time, they noticed a difference in the way the roads are constructed; " Germany the roadbeds tend to be 1.5m or 1.8m deep, twice the US average." It continues "European engineers also devote more time and money to designing roadbeds that resist frost and have excellent drainage, addressing two problems that play havoc with US thoroughfares." (VOORST, Bruce Van, 1992) This denotes the problem that is causing the pothole issue within the US is due to quick construction of roads and poor follow up of maintenance which is causing the problem with potholes.

It is from this report that it becomes apparent why the USA may not have the best roads. It has only been since the Obama Administration that the road network has seen an boost in maintenance. In figure x.x, it shows the tax receipts from the Highway Account Balance (FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION, 2011). Previous to the inauguration of President Obama, it seems that the majority of funding was limited to around $10 billion. It is only at the end of the first quarter of 2010 that any significant increase in funding can be seen. An extra $10 billion was spent on repairs and maintenance of the roads to ensure that transport network was less likely to deteriorate so quickly again.

Figure - Highway Account Balance for the United States (FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION, 2011)


In Japan, the road network that is in place is highly complex. Since the country is relatively small compared to neighbouring china, the road network has to meet the needs for logistics within the country to keep up with competition from rivalling nations. It is possibly due to this competition that japan seems to have little problem with potholes. There was no mention as to any sort of pothole problem within the country. This is surprising since Japan receives heavy snow during the winter months with 60% of the land being affected by snow and with an estimated 1,600 million vehicles using the 7641 km of expressways it is surprising to find little evidence of pothole problems (MINISTRY OF LAND, INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND TOURISM, 2008).

There are a few possible reasons for this lack of potholes situation that became apparent in a report produced by the Japanese government. One of these reasons is due to utilities being above ground. Until recently, the Japanese kept utilities suspended above pedestrians on utility poles. This is similar to some places in the UK with the exception that most places in Japan seem to have these utility poles. They are used to carry telephone lines and electricity to houses and businesses. The reason that this could reduce the number of potholes present in the road network, is due to utility companies working above ground. This would eliminate the need to excavate, refill and repair road surfacing which would therefore reduce the possibility for water to penetrate the road surface. In some places the utilities are being relocated away from the main streets and under the eaves of the buildings.

Another reason that potholes may not be an issue, or may not be reported, is due to highway privatisation. In 2004, the cabinet in japan approved the highway privatisation package which allowed private companies to take over the running of the road network and toll system. This was to support a way out of the 40 trillion yen debt that had accumulated due to construction spending. By privatising the road network, it would become harder to find precise information as there are six different operators controlling six different sections of the countries highway. These companies will lease the highways and use tolls to provide and maintain services. After 45 years the companies will be disbanded and the highway will be returned to the state with the possibility of tolls being scrapped. There has been speculation over the profit that the companies will make from the toll system " tolls will not generate profit because all proceeds will be used to run the companies and pay the leasing charges. So profits will have to come from other sources, such as service and parking areas and development projects around interchanges" (THE JAPAN TIMES, 2004). This analysis seems reasonable. With the size of the debt that is needing cleared, tolls alone will not be able to correct the problem. Although the road network is highly valued and heavily used, people will not want to pay extremely high toll charges and therefore, it could result in more people using public transport at a reduced cost.

Due to the mass of debt incurred by the government, it seems that they invested heavily in producing and maintaining high quality road networks which could be one of the main aspects of a pothole free highway.

Japan is renowned for its heavy rain, heavy snow and earthquakes that the country endures frequently. However, it could be because of these acts of nature that there roads are so well constructed and maintained. The elevated highway piers and bridge piers are seismically reinforced by concrete jacketing and road side slopes are protected to prevent landslide (MINISTRY OF LAND, INFRASTRUCTURE, TRANSPORT AND TOURISM, 2008). Although these measures may not be the reason for potholes being almost eliminated, it ensures that the roads are kept in a reasonable condition which allows authorities to spend money maintaining the highways instead of completely repairing them. In regions which are affected by snow have avalanche protection facilities and effect snow removal procedures. This could be a reason that potholes are not an evident problem. If the snow is effectively removed or gritting is used, then this would reduce the chances of snow and frost affecting the sub-base of the road and therefore would reduce the chances of potholes occurring.


Scandinavia is a region of northern Europe which consists of the countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. All of these countries lie high above the equator with some being the same distance from the equator as the UK, which means that generally these countries experience colder temperatures. It was surprising to discover, with this knowledge in mind, that there seems to be little evidence to suggest that potholes are a problem in these countries.

A further investigation into Swedish roads suggest that safety seems to be a reason why roads are less likely to be pothole infested. Most journals, government websites and newspaper articles all suggest that due to high safety standards due to 'Vision Zero', roads are better maintained. 'Vision Zero' was established in 1997 and has the goal of 'refusal to accept human death or lifelong suffering as a result of road traffic' (TRAFIKVERKET, 2011) One of the guidelines of the 'Vision Zero' policy is 'High-traffic roads will be provided with a better standard due to the Vision Zero.' (RANDI EGGEN, 2006) This would mean that high trafficked roads would be fitted to ensure that high standards are met. This would also mean that the roads are less likely to fatigue and cause inlets in the road surface for water, as well as imposing regular maintenance on the roads and strict observations of road conditions.

In Denmark, they have an alternative way of dealing with road maintenance. In an article from the Nordic Road and Transport Research, it revealed that Denmark allows 'Long term performance-based maintenance contracting' to help maintain their roads. This involves giving maintenance of the road network to a contractor for a period of fifteen years. This accounts for 3000km of municipality roads. (NORDIC ROAD AND TRANSPORT RESEARCH, 2007) It therefore seems that due to this 'privatisation' of the road networks, Denmark can focus its attention on other road maintenance and upgrades whilst leaving the maintenance of existing city roads to the contractors. It would also mean that any potholes information on these roads would be held by the contractor and due to maintenance requirements to stop 'rutting, skid resistance, evenness, profile and light reflection' (NORDIC ROAD AND TRANSPORT RESEARCH, 2007), it would be very unlikely that the contractor would divulge this information. There may also be little evidence due to these contractors filling the potholes as they occur.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands are another country which seems to experience low pothole rates. Although this country is on mainland Europe, it is near Denmark and therefore allows comparisons to be drawn from a country outside of Scandinavia.

The Netherlands is a small country in comparison to other countries that have been discussed. This does not mean that less money is spent than other countries. In 2000 the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment for the Netherlands budgeted '€600 million between now and 2010 for the management and maintenance of roads' (GOVERNMENT OF THE NETHERLANDS, 2000). However, with this maintenance money was not to fix potholes or other road defects (i.e. fatigue etc.) It was to allow for 'better and quieter asphalt and renovation of old flyovers' (GOVERNMENT OF THE NETHERLANDS, 2000) this statement suggests that potholes are essentially and obsolete problem due to upgrading roads being considered maintenance.

A recent publication by the Government of the Netherlands, communicates the idea of a kilometer charge for road users. This would mean that ' the average charge for a car will rise from €0.03 per kilometer in 2012 to €0.067 in 2008' (GOVERNMENT OF THE NETHERLANDS, 2009) This imposed fee would reduce the amount of cars on the road as well as generate revenue which could help with maintenance. Although, this is not the aim of the strategy which is to reduce emissions, it will make people think about making unnecessary trips which could result in less road usage and therefore, less chance of defects.


In conclusion, it can be seen that the United Kingdom isn't the only country with the problem of potholes and poor road maintenance. With the United States struggling to control the maintenance of its extensive road network, it is slightly reassuring to know that we are not the only country that has to experience the inconvenience of potholes.

Although there are many countries encountering this problem, some are not, which raises the question: What can be done differently? Has our population and dependence on motor vehicle transport gotten so high that regular road tax will not cover the cost of repairs? Is it time for the United Kingdom to allow privatisation of roads in order to break up the road the amount of maintenance that is needed? The future is equivocal for the UK's roads, but it is known that something needs to be done to tackle the problem.


Having focused so much on the wider view of potholes and there effect on society, it seems that maybe an in-depth view of Glasgow City's pothole problem should be brought to light. Since the breakdown of Strathclyde Regional Council, the Glasgow area was suddenly the largest county in the area. With Glasgow being the 4th largest city in the UK (in terms of population) (UK CITIES, 2001)it would only be natural that they would receive a greater budget. However, it can be seen from the roads in Glasgow today, that the budget that was given was either not satisfactory or not used correctly.

The pothole situation in and around the city has gotten so bad, that the Scottish newspaper, 'The Evening Times', has started a campaign which enables the public to voice their opinions and sign petitions to get dangerous potholes repaired. It was upon looking at this campaign that it seemed obvious there was something terrible wrong with the local authority in charge of these repairs. With some research, it seemed apparent that the council had an average of £12 million to spent on road maintenance**

From the Audit Scotland report 'Maintaining Scotland's Roads', it presented the figure below showing how each local authorities winter maintenance budget for the winter of 2009/2010. This indicates the areas which allocated more money to winter maintenance. The figure reveals that Glasgow City Council allocated between £3 million and £5 million for the winter months.** This value of expenditure seems to be less than should have been anticipated due to information provided by the Met Office. The Met office figures indicate a mean temperature value of 3.2 °C for the whole of the UK, which is 0.5 °C below the 1971-2000 average in 2008/2009 between January and February (THE MET OFFICE, 2010). In the year following this, there was a mean temperature of 1.6 °C for the UK, which is 2.0 °C below the 1971-2000 average during January and February 2009/2010 (THE MET OFFICE, 2010). This implies that Glasgow City Council were aware of the drop in temperatures within the UK in the winters previous, however, as this is an average of all regions within the UK it could be understandable that data could have been misleading.

Although the information given by the Met Office for these years is in the temperature region for snow, both winters affect road users and continued to destroy the road surfacing due to potholes and road defects. If the information was used as an indicator of likely conditions, it would still have given the impression that snow was likely. However, slow reaction time resulted in snow being able to lying on the ground and therefore affected the road surfacing due to frost. This was a well-publicised story as people were stranded and emergency services struggled to reach people. It was noted that if the roads had been properly prepared for the forecast i.e. rock salt spread on roads, then the freezing point of moisture on the roads would have been reduced and would have allowed ice and snow to melt with minimal damage. However, the snow eventually melted and the effects on the roads due to the frost and de-frost action became apparent.

During this research, I tried to get an interview with the Roads Asset Manager for Glasgow City Council (as mentioned in previous chapters), but due to other commitments he advised to submit questions that he could answer. I asked about the plans to rectify the pothole problem in Glasgow and the amount of extra winter funding that the council will receive: "Glasgow is a Victorian city with an ageing road network which makes it more expensive to repair. The way roads are funded by Central Government is by classified road length. Thus a classified single track Highland road with low traffic volume will receive the same funding as six lane dual carriageways in Glasgow such as Great Western Road or indeed the Clyde Tunnel; and more funding than Union Street which is unclassified but carries a large volume of bus traffic. Unless funding is increased the pothole problem will remain, especially if the current weather pattern of more severe winters continues. Glasgow is getting £750k of the Scottish Government's £15M allocation to the 32 local authorities. This will only scratch the surface of the problem." (MILNE, Bruce, 2011). After hearing this, it became more apparent why the road repairs were not being corrected more promptly. With the way that funding for roads is classified, it may take longer than the 13 year estimate to establish a state of better road conditions.