Holes over high speed rail09 Apr 2010

Potholes the priority amongst voters

The state of the roads is the single largest transport issue concerning voters ahead of the general and local elections on 6th May.

77% of the British people say potholes and damaged roads are a big problem in their area and at 52% the level of dissatisfaction with road maintenance is at its highest level for a decade.

When it comes to the highest transport priorities for an incoming government, 58% say it should be dealing with the condition of roads and pavements, while curbing the general cost of driving (including fuel prices) comes close behind on 46%. Only 3% regard planning and building a new high speed rail line between London and Birmingham as a priority amongst ten options.

And when asked which areas of public spending on transport should be protected from possible cuts, road maintenance was top, selected by 70% of the respondents. Just 8% think high speed rail should be protected.

These are the results of a new Ipsos MORI poll carried out across Britain for the RAC Foundation.

Commenting on the results, Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation said:

“This starkly underlines the huge inconvenience potholes are causing the majority of the Great British public and leaves would-be politicians in no doubt of where voters – no matter what their political persuasion – think the next Government’s transport priorities should lie.”

“The attention repeatedly focused on high speed rail misses the reality of most people’s lives which is that 92% of all passenger journeys take place on the roads. The road network is a vital utility and is essential to the economic and social wellbeing of the nation. It should be treated as such.”

“All candidates would do well to note people’s dissatisfaction with the state of the road network which has leapt over the past year.”

“In 2007 1.8 million people signed a petition calling on Tony Blair not to introduce road pricing, and eventually the Government dumped the idea. Too often, this country’s 35 million car drivers are taken for granted by the politicians and most of the time they are the silent majority, but when they do speak they change public policy. Those who want to be our elected representatives ignore motorists’ views at their peril.”


Contact: Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation
020 7747 3486 / 07711 776448 / [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

The RAC Foundation is a charity that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and responsible road users. Independent and authoritative research, carried out for the public benefit, is central to the Foundation’s activities.

The results are based on 1,025 face-to-face in-home interviews conducted by Ipsos MORI with adults aged 16+ across England, Scotland and Wales conducted between 26th March and 1st April (before the election was called). Data has been weighted.

When asked the question (Q6) “Thinking about your local area, how much of a problem do you think potholes and damaged roads are, or do you not think they are a problem at all?” the responses were:

A very big problem        39%
A fairly big problem        38%
Not a very big problem    17%
Not a problem at all        3%
Don’t know            3%

(The 77% figure quoted above in the body of the press release is the sum of 39% and 38%)

When asked the question (Q2) “Which one or two, if any, of the following areas of public spending on roads and public transport do you think should be protected from possible cuts, should cuts be necessary” the responses were:

Spending on road and pavement maintenance            70%
Spending to reduce traffic congestion on roads
e.g. improving junctions and traffic signalling            38%
Spending to plan and build a new high speed rail line
connecting London and Birmingham and eventually Scotland     8%
Spending to improve existing train services                22%
Spending to improve bus services                    27%
None of these                                1%
Don’t know                                5%

When asked the question (Q3) “This list shows a selection of issues associated with transport. Which two or three do you think should be the highest priority for the Government to deal with after the forthcoming general election?” the responses were:

The condition of roads and pavements                58%
The cost of using a car (e.g. petrol prices)                46%
Safety for car drivers and other road users                22%
The level of congestion on local roads and in towns            24%
Delays caused by roadworks                        19%
Overcrowding on existing train services                12%
The cost of travelling by train                        25%
Planning and building a new high speed rail line connecting
London and Birmingham, and eventually Scotland            3%
The frequency of local buses                        17%
The damage to the environment caused by transport        18%
Other                                    Less than 1%
None of these                                Less than 1%
Don’t know                                2%

When asked the question (Q5) “How satisfied or dissatisfied would you say you are with the road maintenance in this area” 52% said very or fairly dissatisfied, whilst 31% said very or fairly satisfied. 52% is the highest dissatisfaction figure recorded by Ipsos MORI since 2001 (though earlier surveys were undertaken in summer/autumn months)