Expert Blog

How was your National Pothole Day?

Forget your own Birthday. Skip those weddings you promised to attend. Cancel Christmas. For, this year, there’s only one day worth getting excited about. And that was 15 January, otherwise known as National Pothole Day.

It wasn’t, of course, a celebration. We didn’t run out into the streets and pour champagne into any potholes we could find. The idea was instead to wage war against those damnable little hollows in the ground. The organisers of the day – Street Repairs – wanted us to use our eyes and our smartphones to report as many of them as possible. This first National Pothole Day was intended to be a death knell for potholes around the country.

Well, we happily complied. It’s this blog’s general position that, when it comes to potholes, there can never be too much awareness raised. They blemish the country’s roads, damage our vehicles and endanger cyclists. Even if Street Repairs’ initiative has just a small effect, and helps to get a few more potholes filled in, it will have been worthwhile. 

But there’s a chance that National Pothole Day could have a big effect. It was certainly well-timed to do so. With the general election approaching, politicians are looking out for ways to appeal to the electorate – and filling in potholes could be one of them. As a survey by the AA revealed last year, 91 per cent of motorists would feel better-inclined towards a party that promised to smooth Britain’s roads. That’s a higher level of support than for cutting petrol taxes.

Besides, the current Chancellor has the nation’s road network on his mind. Not only did he recently announce a£15 billion programme for renovating motorways and A-roads, but he’s also made more money available to local authorities to patch up their own highways. These ‘pothole funds,’ which currently total around £350 million, are no way near the £12 billion that the Asphalt Industry Alliance reckons is needed to fix every pothole. But – the public finances permitting – they could be expanded to win over voting motorists. 

But the great problem facing any Chancellor is, as we’ve said before, the Pothole Lottery. Central Government can provide more money for local authorities to use, but in the end it’s up to local authorities to use it. Some are great at dealing with potholes quickly and efficiently; others less so. It’s a bad deal for people who live in the latter.

Again, though, this is where initiatives such as National Pothole Day count. They offer a chance to shame those areas that are bad for potholes, and perhaps even shame them into action. Which prompts a thought: why don’t we do this every day of the year?

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