SATISFACTION with Worcestershire's roads has plunged - with drivers saying they are increasingly fed up with potholes, cracks, divots and poor road markings.
A major survey has taken place revealing just 31 per cent of people are satisfied with county roads, compared to 42 per cent in 2011.
Worcestershire County Council has insisted it is "perplexed" by the findings, and say the unhappiness comes despite record investment and fewer defects than ever before.
A survey of more than 2,200 people, selected deliberately to get a cross-section of householders, shows 51 per cent are 'very' or 'fairly' dissatisfied with the roads.
The overall satisfaction rate, which stands at 31 per cent, is four per cent lower than even last year - a drop the council has called "statistically significant".
The council says it does rigorous testing of road conditions and not only are defects drastically reduced, record numbers of potholes are being filled in.
There is also no longer a waiting list for roads to be repaired, due to extra resources being put into the system.
Following the findings the council has promised to look at ways of making people happier, including revisiting road markings and signage.
Peter Blake, head of integrated transport, said: "The network is getting better, we're having less potholes but satisfaction is going down.
"There is no single answer to this, we will look at areas like road markings and signage and try a number of different initiatives over the coming months."
The findings were debated during a meeting of the economy, environment and communities scrutiny panel at County Hall.
Councillor Ken Pollock, the chairman, said: "We seem to have suffered a catastrophic drop in satisfaction, but it doesn't seem to be based on reality.
"You might say 'it's an irrational response' but these people are council tax payers, we want to keep them happy."
Mr Blake said: "Roads are getting better, we've got less potholes year-on-year but people were happier three years ago when they were worse - we need to understand why."
The findings emerged in the yearly Worcestershire Viewpoint survey, which went to 6,000 people.
On top of that, to understand people's views on the roads better the council commissioned research with six focus groups containing 51 people in total.
The main factors they cited as influences were potholes, road markings, road signs, poor quality repairs and surfacing.
Last year 27,000 defects on the county's 2,257miles of road were repaired, and 6,000 potholes have been filled in since January.
FURY OVER ROADWORKS
FURIOUS councillors say "sloppy" and "disgraceful" roadworks are making the situation worse - and have hit out over workers abandoning projects for days on end.
During the panel meeting, bosses at Severn Trent and the county council's transport team were grilled about endless utility firm dig-ups around Worcestershire.
Councillors hit out over too many roadworks projects starting, then seemingly stopping for days on end without anyone being on site.
During the debate it emerged that Severn Trent plans to install signs whenever schemes are abandoned to let drivers know why no work is taking place.
Councillor John Smith, cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: "The problem I've got is, all these utility companies seem the same.
"Often, the traffic management (lights) goes up, for three days nothing happens, then work starts, then it finishes and the lights stay up another three days - I personally haven't seen any improvements."
Councillor Alan Amos said: "Nothing infuriates people more than when cones get put down and nothing happens.
"It's disgraceful. I don't see why you can't say 'work must start within 12 hours of the cones going down', because it doesn't seem to happen now and it annoys people intensely.
"Why do they go up for such a long time in advance and then stay there for so long afterwards."
Anita Solanki, from Severn Trent, said: "There is a perception the lights are there when people are doing nothing, but often there are many reasons for it.
"It could be because we have to wait for tarmac to cure, or we could be waiting for extra materials.
"We are planning to now put signs up to tell people why workers are not at a site, so drivers know what's going on."
She said roadworks which cause gridlock "should not happen" but also revealed workers sometimes temporarily abandon sites because they are called away to other urgent projects on odd days.
She also said many third party contractors struggle to tie in tasks like placing cones and lights down, and simultaneously starting the actual work.
"The type of disruption we know people can get annoyed about has reduced, there's been a lot less of those type of incidents," she said.
Councillor Ken Pollock said: "For good PR, if anything else, you need to manage this.
"The kind of sloppiness Alan (Amos) is talking about isn't acceptable in industry, where the concept of 'just in time' is so important."
The most notorious recent example was January's £180,000 Severn Trent scheme to lay new pipes in St Peter's, Worcester.
More than a mile of tailbacks stretched towards the Sidbury junction and the Cathedral roundabout on the first day lights were placed along the A38, despite no work taking place