Labour vows to finish ‘pothole plague’ with one other a million repairs a yr

Labour will pledge to fix an extra one million potholes a year in a big boost for drivers.

The party has earmarked an additional £320million to finally tackle a “pothole plague”. It forms part of Labour ’s promise to motorists, which also includes a crackdown on soaring car insurance prices and faster decisions on road upgrades.

Insiders say the package will be among the most significant new policy commitments in its manifesto, launched on Thursday. Louise Haigh, Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, said: “Cars are a lifeline for millions up and down the country.

“They get people to work, allow parents to get kids to school and help carers support relatives – but drivers have been totally failed by this Conservative government.

“The Conservatives have left Britain’s roads plagued with potholes and have sat back as car insurance costs have spiralled out of control. Labour is the only party truly on the side of drivers.”

Louise Haigh, Labour's Shadow Transport Secretary

Shadow Transport Secretary Louise Haigh said drivers had been failed by the Tories
Getty Images)

Potholes have become symptomatic of the country’s crumbling roads, with surveys listing it among motorists’ biggest gripes. Labour says pothole damage cost drivers almost £500million last year, with the average damage worth £250.

RAC roadside patrols attended nearly 30,000 pothole-related breakdowns las year, up a third on 2022. Labour claims there are now 100 times more potholes on our roads than craters on the moon.

As well as damage to vehicles, pockmarked roads can be fatal. Reports suggest 118 cyclists were seriously injured due to rotten road surfaces between 2017 and 2021, with six tragically killed.

Badly maintained highways are also a major issue for motorcycles and other road users. Labour says it will end the “sticking plaster approach” to roads repairs by providing multi-year funding settlements to local authorities.

The longer-term commitment should prevent potholes forming in the first place and mean better value for money for the taxpayer. According to a report from the Asphalt Industry Alliance, the number of claims received by local authorities in England and Wales because of road defects increased to an average 421 per council last year, with almost nine out of 10 relating to potholes.

The average cost of compensating drivers – including staff time to deal with claims – was almost £29million last year. It comes amid warnings that the cost of tackling the backlog of road repairs in general has increased to a new record high of £16.3billion.

Last November, Transport Secretary Mark Harper set out an £8.3billion plan to improve road conditions over the next 11 years. The RAC attended just over 7,900 breakdowns in the first three months of this year due to bad road surfaces, up 53% on the last three months of 2023 in what said was “a clear sign that the UK is suffering a pothole epidemic as roads continue to crumble”.

Labour says it would fund the one million potholes a year pledge by deferring the planned A27 Arundel bypass in Sussex, which has an estimated cost of at least £320million.

The party’s Plan for Drivers also includes calling on the Competition and Markets Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority to launch urgent investigations into the soaring cost of car insurance. Labour says premiums for British drivers have leapt 12 times faster than in France.

The average quote for motor cover leapt by 56.4% in the year to February, according to Consumer Intelligence, with typical annual bill of between £500 and £749. Insurers say they are passing on a sharp rise in the cost of claims, driven by a big increase in everything from car parts to secondhand motors.

Many in the industry insist they have been making a loss on motor policies. But some insurers have begun to see a bounceback in profits.

Admiral, the UK’s biggest motor insurer, made almost £443million last year, up 23% on the previous 12 months. Labour will also promise to accelerate the rollout of electric vehicle charge-points, reducing traffic on our roads by providing better buses and trains, and deliver a new road safety strategy to prevent tragic deaths and injuries.

The top 10 worst UK locations for potholes

  • Glasgow
  • Edinburgh
  • Hereford
  • Southampton
  • Wrexham
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Sheffield
  • Manchester
  • Birmingham
  • Swansea