Bumps in the road?

11 May 2021

“If I could wave a magic wand, one thing I would definitely change is the M25 unsmooth bumpy surface. I absolutely hate driving over this and my children hate the noise of it end up covering their ears. I reckon it damages tyres as well.​” Female, 36

What do road users experience on every journey on England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads? The surface of the road. You might be delayed by roadworks or a crash, or you might experience poor driving by others. But you will always experience the road surface.

We recently asked members of our Transport User Community about how road surfaces affect them. Most felt that the motorways and major ‘A’ roads managed by Highways England were in better condition than roads managed by councils. But they still wanted them to be better.  This is something we know from Transport Focus’s priorities for improvement research. And our other research shows that drivers want road surfaces without dips, bumps and potholes.

For members of our community, worry over road surface is partly about safety – 70 mph roads need to be in tip top condition to be safe. It is also partly a sense that these roads are important and ought on principle to be maintained properly. A more pleasant, less stressful journey experience is also a factor. Looking ahead, there was also a sense that technology should come up with longer lasting materials that makes this problem go away.

Exploring road surface quality with members of our community highlighted an issue Transport Focus has raised before. Clarity about who is responsible for the road you are using and how to get in touch to report issues if you need to.

“In truth I don’t know who to report concerns about a road to, but I’m going to do my research now and make sure that a pothole has been reported. I always report a bad pothole on Waze as it helps me when others have done so.” ​ Male, 35

It seems many drivers aren’t sure who to contact if they want to report a problem. We will be looking to see if we need to revisit a recommendation we made to Highways England in 2019:

Highways England should look to increase road users’ awareness of when they are on a road that it manages, working with satellite navigation and mapping providers, and introducing Highways England branding to roadside signage in a safe, cost effective way.

Transport Focus will continue to work with Highways England to help develop a better way to measure road users’ views about what is smooth and what is not. During the government’s Road Period 2 (2020-25) Highways England will need to measure its success at delivering good road surface. This will need to need to include not only what is technically ‘safe and serviceable’, but also what its customers want.

You can see the report about what our community felt here.

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