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Battling our Bumpy Roads: The Challenges of the UK’s Pothole Problems

When driving on our roads, it’s difficult to ignore the ever-present nuisance of potholes. These unsightly craters pose a regular risk to motorists as the cause of an alarming number of accidents and damaged vehicles.

Let’s delve into the magnitude of the UK’s pothole problems, examining its causes, consequences and potential solutions including the more effective and efficient pothole repair mixes that can be used today.

The UK's pothole problem
Investigating pothole problems on UK roads

What causes potholes?

Potholes have long plagued the UK’s road infrastructure, affecting both urban and rural areas.

The pothole crisis is exacerbated by our country’s climate, with its frequent freeze-thaw cycles and heavy rainfall.

Water seeps into cracks in the road surface and, as it freezes and expands, weakens the pavement resulting in potholes.

The hard surfacing is weakened further with traffic use, particularly on receiving extra weight from large vehicles and heavy trucks.

Road conditions and maintenance challenges

Accurate data on the exact number of potholes in the UK is challenging to obtain due to the decentralized nature of road maintenance. However, several reports and studies shed light on the scale of the problem:

Annual pothole reports

Each year, Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) conduct an independent survey to assess the state of the roads in England and Wales. The survey itself is based on information provided by those responsible for its mainteance.

The latest 2023 ALARM survey reported that local authority highways teams received roughly two-thirds of the budget needed to stop the country’s roads from deteriorating any further.

Today, AIA estimate that more than £14 billion is needed to fix the backlog of road repairs due to potholes.

The UK Government currently has a pot of £5 billion to tackle ongoing pothole problems up until 2025.

Pothole-related breakdowns

This month, the RAC estimated there to be at least 1 million potholes on the UK’s roads. 

It’s difficult to estimate the true scale of vehicle breakdowns caused by potholes. To help us gain some idea, the RAC shares reports from its own customers in the RAC Pothole Index.

The Index showed that in the 12 months up to 30 June 2023, there were 27,250 breakdowns where a vehicle was damaged by a pothole.

This is a 20% increase on the previous 12 months when there were 4,550 fewer pothole-related mishaps.

Extrapolate these figures for all other car insurers and the real scale of the pothole crisis is truly alarming.

Pothole damage claims

Recent years have seen a surge in compensation claims for vehicle damage caused by potholes. 

Latest reports show that in 2019, local authorities paid out £3.2 million in compensation for pothole-related claims, according to data from the RAC Foundation.

Potholes can damage shock absorbers, suspension & wheel alignment

Road safety concerns

The presence of potholes poses several concerns and challenges for both motorists and local authorities.

Vehicle damage and safety hazards

Potholes can cause significant damage to vehicles, including: 

  • punctured tyres
  • bent wheel rims
  • damaged shock absorbers
  • broken suspension springs
  • distorted wheel alignment

Moreover, swerving to avoid potholes can lead to accidents, endangering the safety of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

Costly vehicle repairs

Pothole-related vehicle repairs can be expensive, placing extra financial strain on motorists.

Additionally, local authorities face mounting costs to address road maintenance issues, diverting funds from other crucial areas of infrastructure development.

Traffic congestion

Pothole-riddled roads often require temporary repairs or closures, causing traffic congestion and delays for road users.

Pothole repair solutions

Efforts are being made to combat the pothole crisis, but more can be done.

Pothole maintenance budget

The government allocated an additional £200 million to the Potholes Fund in the 2023 Budget to support local authorities in tackling the pothole issue.

Improved public reporting mechanisms

Local authorities encourage the public to report potholes promptly.

Many councils have dedicated online portals or smartphone apps where you can provide information on road defects, enabling quicker response times and improved road maintenance.

Potholes on major roads and carriageways should be reported to Highways Agency, while on minor roads it is likely to be the local authority. Use the search function to find out exactly who to report a pothole to based on the postcode.

Pothole repair solutions

Recent years have seen many advancements in road repair techniques that don’t require heavy duty machinery and a mastic mixer for fixing reinstatements. 

Pothole repair products
Browse all pothole repair products >>

Cold-lay tarmac formulas are now so advanced that this more efficient repair solution can be relied upon for professional and long-lasting solutions to the pothole crisis.

Different grades of formula are available for different types of repair jobs. For example, Surface Defect Repair can be used for minor or shallow holes, all the way up to Tough Patch for potholes of up to 100mm in depth (with Tough Patch 10mm).

A hot-lay tarmac is even available in a bag that doesn’t require the heavy duty equipment normally needed. Enviro Mastic is ideal for remote sites and can be used on carriageways for potholes of up to 150mm deep.

Explore the table below for an overview of the various ready-made pothole repair mixes available in a bag or tub.

Please note: only professional public works and reinstatement contractors are authorised to fix potholes on public paths, roads and carriageways. These formulas can be used by the general public on private roads, driveways or other private surfacing repairs.

Pothole Repair Mix

Pothole depth

Type of job

Surface Defect Repair

Up to 45mm

Minor or shallow holes & defects

IRR 6mm


Footpaths & cycle tracks

IRR 10mm


Type 3 & 4 roads

PPR (3mm)


Roads, driveways & car parks



Trafficked areas & during wet weather

Tough Patch 6mm

Up to 60mm

All jobs, especially heavily trafficked areas & during wet weather

Tough Patch 10mm*

Up to 100mm

All jobs, especially heavily trafficked areas & during wet weather

Enviro Mastic (hot lay tarmac)**


All jobs, including carriageways. Ideal for remote sites. No mechanical compaction required. 

*Tough Patch 10mm is available to order over the phone – please call 0330 122 1025 to place an order or for more details.

**Enviro Mastic is only available to buy in full pallets with our special deal for 50x 25kg bags.

How to achieve professional pothole repairs

For a pothole repair job that lasts, you must ensure the pothole is free of debris and apply a quality bitumen sealer (cold joint spray) to secure the mix to the interior of the hole. 

A professional fix is all about layering. Apply the cold-jointing spray, apply a layer of formula and compact before applying more spray to the new surface. Spray the adhesive on all internal surfaces prior to adding each layer. 

One of the biggest causes of pothole failures is water getting into a fixed repair job, freezing and causing the pothole to ‘pop out’. Hardscape professionals avoid this by applying overbanding tape to the finished repair to prevent water ingress. 

Read more tips from hardscape specialists on how to fix potholes. You may also be interested in reading our complete guide to cold-lay tarmacs and ancillaries.

Potholes continue to be a pervasive problem in the UK, affecting road safety, vehicle maintenance and our overall experience of driving.

Although the exact number of potholes is challenging to determine, the evidence of their prevalence and their associated challenges cannot be ignored. Through sustained funding, more efficient and effective repair solutions, and more timely reporting, we can hope to better resolve the ongoing pothole problem and create safer, smoother roads for us all.

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