Potholes on minor roads cost economy £2bn says Cycling UK

Road surfacing happening in Stoughton, Guildford
Lack of funding for minor roads cost the economy £2.04bn in 2017
The ongoing decline in funding for minor roads cost the wider economy £2.04bn in 2017 says Cycling UK, the charity which runs the pothole reporting tool, Fill That Hole.
  • 40% reduction in real term spending on minor road maintenance since 2009/10
  • Only 51% of overall road maintenance budget goes on minor roads, despite making up 88% of the overall road network. Down from 60% in 2009/10.
  • Cyclists’ maintenance claims cost councils 13 times as much as other road users due to risk of personal injury


Giving evidence to the House of Commons Transport Committee’s inquiry on Local Roads Funding and Governance, Cycling UK policy director, Roger Geffen MBE, explained spending on minor roads, ‘B’, ‘C’ and unclassified roads, was continuing to decline despite overall increases by councils on road maintenance.

In 2009/10 English highways authorities total spend on road maintenance was £4.19bn. This figure went in to sharp decline in 2013/14 to £3.46bn, and gradually increased to £3.63bn in 2016/17.

Despite this overall recent increase for road maintenance, funding for minor roads has continued to decline. Eight years ago, £2.51bn was spent on minor roads, representing 60% of overall spend. In 2016/17, despite surface conditions worsening, only £1.87bn was spent – 51% of overall road maintenance budget.

In real term spending, funding for looking after minor roads in 2016/17 compared to 2009/10 levels declined by 40% (£1.22bn).

The Transport Research Laboratory estimates for every £1 cut on local roads, there is a wider economic cost of £1.67. This means the reduction has cost England £2.04bn, or one fifth of what the ALARM survey estimates is needed to repair all the potholes in Britain.

Speaking after his appearance before the Transport Committee Roger Geffen, Cycling UK’s policy director said:

“Good road maintenance is not just about spending money to save money, it’s also about saving lives and limbs. Cycling UK’s findings show that that cuts to maintenance budgets for local roads are a false economy, as this is where they most endanger pedestrians and cyclists.

“Pay-outs to cyclists for highway damages are typically 13 times higher than those made to drivers, mainly because they are more likely to involve injury rather than just property damage. When you add in the costs of injuries to the NHS and to employers, the case for local road maintenance becomes overwhelming.

“Yet the Government continues to boost spending on new motorways and trunk roads, while letting our existing local roads rot away. After several hard winters, it’s high time the Government reversed these skewed priorities.”

An FOI investigation by Cycling UK in March found the average compensation pay out to cyclists for maintenance related damage is 13 times higher than to drivers (average £11k for cyclists to £841 for motorists). Department for Transport figures found at least 390 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured due to pothole related incidents since 2007.

Notes to editors

  1. Cycling UK, the national cycling charity, inspires and helps people to cycle and keep cycling, whatever kind of cycling they do or would like to do. Over a century’s experience tells us that cycling is more than useful transport; it makes you feel good, gives you a sense of freedom and creates a better environment for everyone. www.cyclinguk.org
  2. Cycling UK’s submission to the Transport Committee is available online here: http://data.parliament.uk/writtenevidence/committeeevidence.svc/evidencedocument/transport-committee/local-roads-funding-and-governance/written/90786.html
  3. For more information on the Transport Committee’s inquiry, see: https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/transport-committee/inquiries/parliament-2017/local-roads-funding-governance-17-19/
  4. For more information on Fill That Hole see: www.fillthathole.org.uk
  5. For further information of Cycling UK’s FOI investigation of local authorities see: https://www.cyclinguk.org/press-release/156-local-authorities-spend-total-ps433-million-pothole-claims
  6. For more information on the 390 cyclist fatalities and serious injuries due to pot holes see: https://www.cyclinguk.org/press-release/390-cyclists-killed-or-seriously-injured-2007-due-potholes

Press contact information

For more information contact the national Cycling UK Press Office on 01483 238 315, 07786 320 713 or email publicity@cyclinguk.org