Which UK city has the most potholes? Repairs hit eight-year high, report claims

Pointing at potholes is a job not even prime ministers are above, as David Cameron proved in 2014 (PA)
Pointing at potholes is a job not even prime ministers are above, as David Cameron proved in 2014 (PA)

Few things seem to unite Britons in anger quite as much as potholes.

Pedestrians, drivers, cyclists, and anyone who ever leaves their home will, odds on, have moaned at some point about a rut or crevice that needs to be fixed.

The topic conjures thoughts of disgruntled councillors pointing at offending spots in local newspaper images — or a more recent trend for them to be filled with mosaics or gardening.

However, such anger is righteous given that rutted roads can ruin car suspensions and cause crashes and injuries.

A recent study claims that potholes are to blame for the "breaking point" in English and Welsh roads, where repairs are at an eight-year high.Councils were scheduled to patch two million potholes in the current fiscal year, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) annual Alarm study. This is the largest annual total since 2015–16 and an increase of 43 per cent from the previous year.

The study found that 47 per cent of local road miles were considered in good condition, 36 per cent adequate, and 17 per cent in poor shape.

The Government in October 2023 said it would allocate an additional £8.3 billion over 11 years to road improvements in England. This was part of the Network North strategy to use money saved by axing the proposed extension of HS2 north of Birmingham.

A separate study by Which? using data from Admiral showed pothole claims rose by 40 per cent between 2022 and 2023. More than a third took place between January and March last year.

The study found that the average claim for pothole damage rose by 29 per cent from £2,378 in 2022 to £3,070 in 2023.

But now, help is at hand to avoid such costly outlays as new research has found where you are most likely to find a pothole.


What causes potholes?

Potholes typically form due to a combination of factors, primarily related to roads’ wear and tear caused by weather, traffic, and poor maintenance. Here are some key factors:

  • Water seepage: Water is one of the main culprits. When water seeps into cracks in the road surface, it weakens the underlying layers of soil and pavement. During colder weather, this water can freeze, expand, and cause the pavement to crack and break apart.

  • Freeze-thaw cycles: In regions with significant temperature fluctuations, such as areas where winters are cold, the repeated cycle of freezing and thawing can exacerbate cracks in the road surface. Water seeps into these cracks, freezes, expands, and thaws, creating larger gaps and weakening the pavement.

  • Traffic loads: Heavy traffic, especially from large lorries and buses, stresses roads significantly. Over time, this constant pressure can cause the road surface to weaken and break apart, leading to pothole formation.

  • Poor construction or maintenance: Poorly constructed or inadequately maintained roads are more prone to developing potholes. Lack of proper drainage, inferior materials, and inadequate repairs can all cause road surfaces to deteriorate.

  • Chemical reactions: Chemicals such as road salt, commonly used for de-icing in cold climates, can accelerate the deterioration of roads. Salt can seep into cracks in the pavement, weaken the structure, and contribute to pothole formation.

  • Natural settlement: Natural settlement of the ground beneath the road can cause the pavement to crack and sink, leading to potholes.

How to report potholes

Publicly maintained roads and walkways are the responsibility of the Department for Infrastructure (DfI) Roads.

You can report potholes directly here or through your local council’s website.

If the pothole you wish to report is located on an English motorway or major A-road, you can also report it by visiting this website or calling National Highways at 0300 123 5000.

Certain walkways and roadways are presumably under the ownership of a developer or other private street owner and are not maintained by the Government.

To help assess the risk a defect poses to users of roads or walkways, give information about how serious it is when reporting it.Describe the defect's estimated size, depth, and location and say whether it's on a road, walkway, near a junction, and in which lane.

Which UK areas have the most potholes?

Data released on February 5, 2024 by SmartSurvey appears to have found the UK pothole capital.

The service analysed the reports of potholes registered via FixMyStreet.com for 69 towns and cities across England, Scotland and Wales.

And the winner, if we can use that word, was Glasgow. Scotland’s second city was found to have one reported pothole for every 86th person, placing it ahead of Scotland's capital Edinburgh.

Hereford was third with one pothole reported for every 127th resident

The top 10 worst UK locations for potholes are as follows:

  1. Glasgow,

  2. Edinburgh,

  3. Hereford,

  4. Southampton,

  5. Wrexham,

  6. Stoke-on-Trent,

  7. Sheffield,

  8. Manchester,

  9. Birmingham,

  10. Swansea.

Which London areas have the most potholes?

London as a whole didn’t fare too badly in the research. It missed the top 10 UK list, averaging 1.7 reported potholes per 1,000 residents.

However, further digging into the pothole data (if you can excuse the pun) shows London’s boroughs are mismatched.

Sadly, Barnet residents live in the worst borough of any area advertised with 12 reported potholes per 1,000 residents. It’s then a long way back to the second and third places, with Richmond and Kingston having 2.6.

The situation is much better if you live in Lewisham. Your council is easily the most responsive as it fixed 98.45 per cent of the reported potholes.

It was followed by the City of London (94.34 per cent) and Bromley (91.21 per cent).

Cllr Alan Schneiderman, Barnet Council Cabinet Member for Environment & Climate Change, told the Standard: “Tackling potholes is a key commitment for us as a new administration following the local elections in May 2022.

“We are proposing to invest over £100 million over five years to repair roads and tackle potholes.

“The data cited is also misrepresentative of the facts. The most urgent potholes are fixed within 24 hours and all others between seven and 28 days.

“Barnet is disproportionately affected by potholes with one of the largest road networks in London. Barnet also has amongst the highest volume of vehicle movements a day in London of which 1000 are HGVs.”