The Department for Transport has said that a new performance-based inspection system will mean companies will face financial penalties if they fail to restore road surfaces properly after carrying out street works.
Pothole damage costs UK drivers an estimated £1.3 billion in repair bills every year and councils have paid out £13 million to motorists in compensation in the last four years.
The DfT says the new inspection regime will cut these costs by forcing gas, water, electricity and broadband firms to meet strict standards for road repairs or face financial penalties.
On average utility companies fail 9% of the inspections that are currently carried out, and the worst performing utility company is failing 63% of its inspections, the department said.
The new regime will build on existing inspection rules and will mean that companies which fail initial inspections will go on to be inspected more often by local authorities to ensure their work meets rigorous criteria and they leave roads in a good condition. Failure to do so will result in fines.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The plague of potholes is the menace of our roads.
“That’s why I’m ensuring companies who create them and leave roads in a poor state can be held to account more easily – protecting drivers from unfair repair costs.
“We’ve already invested billions of pounds into roads maintenance, helping local authorities keep their highways well maintained, and I’ll continue working to make sure all road-users around the country can enjoy the safe, world-class infrastructure they deserve.”
Labour’s shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh MP said Mr Shapps was trying to claim credit for fixing the problem he helped create.
She said: “Last year alone the Tories slashed funding to fix our crumbling roads by enough to fill 12 million potholes.
“He should stop taking people for fools and fix the mess his government has made of our roads.”
The Asphalt Industry Alliance estimates that it would cost £12 billion to simply to repair existing problems with the country’s road surfaces.
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “While roadworks are frustrating at the best of times, it’s even worse when utility companies leave roads in a sub-standard state when the temporary traffic lights are finally removed.
“Poorly carried out reinstatement work very often leads to road surfaces breaking down, unnecessarily causing potholes much to the annoyance of drivers. Introducing a performance-based inspections scheme should force utilities companies to raise their game and should ultimately lead to smoother and safer journeys for all road users.”