Drivers at Risk as the Number of Potholes Rise in Manchester and London

Drivers, cyclists and motorcyclists in two of the UK’s largest cities are at risk of road traffic accidents that could potentially cause serious injuries due to a rising number of potholes. Conditions on the roads in Manchester and London have worsened considerably in the past 12 months, and this worrying trend looks likely to continue in the coming months and years, as local authorities fail to conduct regular checks of the conditions on the road.

We recently collected statistics released by fixmystreet.com, which revealed that the total number of reported open potholes across Greater Manchester had increased by 6% as of January 2019, compared with the previous year. With those reported across London increasing by 33%, with only one borough, Hammersmith and Fulham, reporting a drop in the number of potholes.

The analysis comes one year since the so-called Beast from the East bout of extreme weather resulted in freezing temperatures and catastrophic snow storms, which brought the entire country to a standstill. The after effects have been felt long after the storm, as damage to roads was reported across the UK in February and March 2018.

Potholes in Manchester

In Greater Manchester, there are more than 5,600 potholes, causing severe safety concerns for both motorists and cyclists across the region. The top three worst affected boroughs are Manchester city centre (1,771), Bury (681) and Stockport.

The data also suggested that this upward trend is likely to continue in 2019. Worryingly, Manchester city centre saw a 90% increase in potholes on the road between 2018 and 2019 - rising from 931 to 1,711.

City of Manchester Stockport Tameside Oldham Rochdale Bury Bolton Wigan City of Salford Trafford Total
May 2018 931
632 318 670 212 655 783 216 247 677 5341
January 2019 632
643 343 343 215 681 568 228 198 683 5673
+/- 90.23% 1.74% 7.86% -48.81% 1.42% 3.97% -27.46% 5.56% -19.84% 0.89% 6.22%

Potholes in London

A similar scenario was found in London, where the number of reported potholes currently exceeds 49,000. A Freedom of Information request found a 33% rise in 2018, compared to the same period of 2017.

Furthermore, the number of potholes identified in some boroughs has increased by up to 172% in a 12-month period. Boroughs with the largest percentage increase in potholes included Redbridge (+172%), Islington (+151%), Harrow (+116%), and the combined borough of Richmond and Wandsworth (+100%).

Barnet Brent City of London Ealing Enfield Hackney Hammersmith & Fulham Haringuey Harrow Hounslow Islington Kensington & Chelsea Newham Redbridge
Dec 2016 - Nov 2017 1572
3314 189 3615 2405 1193 359 721 366 947 89 36 2631 423
Dec 2017 - Nov 2018 2181 3698 279 5195 3771 2153 225 1152 789 1345 223 35 2954 1152
+/- 38.74% 11.59% 47.62% 43.71% 56.80% 80.47% -37.33% 59.78% 115.57% 42.03% 150.56% -2.78% 12.28% 172.34%
Tower Hamlets Waltham Forest Westminster Bexley Bromley Croydon Greenwich Kingston Lewisham Merton Richmond & Wandsworth Southwark Sutton Total
Dec 2016 - Nov 2017 726 1268 130 1925 2342 3693 471 1302 3635 866 443 971 293 37104
Dec 2017 - Nov 2018 954 1627 157 2083 3724 3791 683 1812 4698 915 888 1274 309 29311
+/- 31.40% 28.31% 20.55% 8.21% 59.01% 2.65% 45.01% 39.17% 29.24% 5.66% 100.45% 31.20% 5.46% 33.38%

What Causes Potholes?

Potholes are created as a result of the expansion and contraction of water on the ground, which has entered under the pavement through cracks that are caused by the wear and tear of traffic.

As temperatures cool, this water becomes ice, which then expands below the pavement, forcing the road surface to rise. Then, as the weight of traffic continues to impact the raised section, the pavement expands, bends and cracks, which weakens it further. When the ice melts, the pavement contracts, leaving gaps or voids in the surface, where more water can leak in and get trapped. This process happens repeatedly when bad weather occurs, causing the surfaces to weaken and incur damage continually.

Who is Responsible for Fixing Potholes?

The responsibility of maintaining roads falls to local councils, who need to ensure roads are safe for motorists and cyclists to use. This is a legal obligation as stated in Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980.

If local authorities fail in their duty to maintain and repair roads and pavements, and someone suffers an injury due to a pothole or other road defect, they may be entitled to claim compensation.

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