Transport secretary Grant Shapps has launched what his department called a first-of-its-kind audit into the mapping of potholes in England ‘to better target improvements so that roads are in top condition as people return to work and school’.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said it will work with highway data and mapping company Gaist alongside businesses such as Deliveroo, Uber, Tesco and Ocado, and local highway authorities to identify ‘pothole hot-spots'.
An Ocado delivery van on a London road, April 2020 in London
Officials said that combining collated data on potholes held by nationwide businesses, and ‘the most up-to-date bank of roads imagery in the country’ from Gaist, the DfT will be able to paint the most comprehensive picture ever of where funding is most needed to ‘make sure’ roads are not plagued by potholes – ‘making them as safe as possible as more commuters and students undertake journeys in the coming months’.
‘The plan will help cyclists and motorist (sic) get back to school and work,’ officials said, adding that said the pothole mapping review will allow for the Government to ably target the worst-affected areas.
The Government did not announce any new funding for repairs or set out any mechanism for targeting areas with roads in poor condition but officials pointed out that the Government has committed £2.5bn over five years for pothole repairs.
The latest Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey, published in March, estimated that it would take 11 years to catch-up with the backlog of repairs on the local road network, at a cost of £11.14bn.
In the foreword to the survey, Rick Green, chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance, pointed out that £500m extra a year for English local authorities 'is not even enough to plug the £616 million reported shortfall in carriageway maintenance'.
Officials said the launch of the review comes as new data reveals that highway maintenance works undertaken in the past months when roads were quieter has led to 319 miles of resurfacing.
Mr Shapps appeared to take credit for this. He said: ‘I want our roads to be as safe as possible, so during the lockdown we’ve resurfaced hundreds of miles of road. But now I want to go further by identifying critical potholes and ensuring these are fixed as quickly as possible.
‘We’re teaming up with delivery companies, who know the roads well, in order to map out where remaining potholes exist and then relentlessly target them with our record £2.5bn to pothole repair fund.
‘Better road surfaces benefit motorists and cyclists alike ensuring the back to school and work environment is safer for everyone.’
Charlie Wren, director of operations at Deliveroo, said the move would ‘make sure’ Deliveroo riders and other road users are safe on the road.