Report on Motoring 2016

The state of our roads

3.0 The state of our roads

The poor condition and lack of adequate maintenance of local roads remains the issue of biggest concern among drivers, this year’s Report on Motoring has found. But concerns appear to be worsening, with 14% citing local roads as their top concern, up from 10% in 2015.

Motorists are more sanguine about the state of major roads and motorways, but with an increase in traffic volumes recorded over the past 12 months, it is no surprise that congestion and the availability of parking have become more significant concerns.

And while there is general agreement that the authorities are doing their best to minimise the delays caused by accidents, more could be done to keep motorists informed about the impact of major incidents.

The RAC continues to emphasise the need for politicians and highways authorities to avoid focussing solely on ‘filling potholes’, as many policy announcements seem to do. Instead a long-term approach should be adopted that prioritises preventative maintenance that avoids potholes developing in the first place. Almost all journeys start and finish on local roads, even if the bulk of the journey is by rail, sea or air. As such, the poor state of local roads impacts on businesses, individuals and the national economy. The RAC therefore believes that all local roads should be brought into the scope of the National Infrastructure Commission, the body which was set up in 2015 with Lord Adonis as its first chairman.

There is also strong support for targeted improvements to local roads, such as changes in road design to reduce bottlenecks:

15% of motorists say this should be the top priority for investment, while 70% (66% in 2015) think it should be a top-five priority.

There is still a significant percentage of drivers (45% – no change on 2015) who would be willing to pay higher levels of tax provided the extra revenues were ring-fenced to improve roads. Meanwhile 40% of motorists believe current road taxation levels are a ‘fair price to pay for the personal freedom that driving gives them’ – a sharp rise on the 2015 figure of 33%.


£6bn dedicated central government funding for local road maintenance between 2015 and 2021

It is interesting when you look below the surface of road condition issues, litter appears to be coming up as a concern as well as the likes of grass and foliage maintenance.
All of this seems to work back to the idea that the general environment of roads is getting shoddier. This is consistent with some of the work carried out by Transport Focus.

- Theo de Pencier, Non-executive Board Member, Transport Focus

16% average drop in road maintenance funding claimed by local authority highways departments in England

70% of motorists support targeted improvements to local roads saying this should be a top-five priority


Against this background, it comes as no surprise that the 2016 Report on Motoring found that a third of drivers (32%) think that the maintenance of local roads should be top priority for local and national government transport investment (up from 30% in 2015). Four in every five motorists (80%) think this should be a top-five priority.