No time for a potty policy on pot-holes

Much humour has been generated by the damage caused to roads in Enderby.

In particular, a pothole at the junction of Townsend Road and George Street attracted the comment “Breaking News….. Good news for Enderby! New open air, free for all, swimming pool opens in Enderby today! Well located at the junction of Townsend Road and George Street, get your cosie on and jump on in! Best to leave your car at home….”

Photo: Facebook, Keith Johnson, All Things Enderby.

Cost is undoubtedly at the heart of the issues concerning the maintenance of the roads and streets that network within and between centres of suburban or rural communities such as that found with our district of Blaby.

It is easy to feel that Enderby is unique in the extent and degree of damage to our roads but in reality the problem is both widespread and serious and any remedy will require ‘long-term’ and perhaps innovative solutions.

Recent government figures reveal that spending by councils on road maintenance is now at its lowest level in ten years.

Statistics from the Department for Transport show that local authority maintenance spending on B roads, C roads, and unclassified routes was just £1.87bn in 2016-17. This is a significant reduction from the £2.46bn spent in 2004-05.

It is worth mentioning that Leicestershire is the lowest-funded county in the country. The County Council has been calling for fair Central Government Funding for many years. It is also calling for a new system to be introduced when deciding the funding that matches an area’s needs, which (of interest to readers of Enderby EYE) includes the high proportion of roads [in the County] travelled by HGVs.

So, how does a County Council deal with potholes?

All potholes need to be classified, before repairs can be scheduled, so when a member of the public reports a pothole they say they “will ensure an inspector visits and classifies the problem”.

Potholes are generally classified according to how serious they are and that assessment dictates how quickly they are fixed:

Major defects

  • Require prompt attention as they represent an immediate or imminent hazard or a risk of short-term structural deterioration.
  • These defects will be fixed or made safe at the time of inspection, if reasonably practicable.
  • If it’s not possible to fix or make the defect safe at time of inspection, repairs of a temporary, or permanent nature will be done as soon as practicable.

Non ‘major’ defects

  • Require attention, but do not represent an immediate or imminent hazard.
  • These defects have a target repair period of longer duration after being reported by the public or will be included within a planned highways maintenance programme.

Potholes or defects on roads or pavements in Leicestershire can be reported through the County Council’s online form

It will no doubt cost a sizeable amount of money but in order to prevent potholes from re-appearing shortly after an ‘initial’ repair requires material of a high quality and a strategy/methodology of applying ‘permanent’ treatments that prevent damage to the fabric of the pavement or roadway.

The principle of not so much “fixing the roof while the sun shines” but rather “fixing the road while the sun shines” applies.

Potholes often appear after rain or during thaw periods when roads and pavements are weaker. Water penetrates the surface, softening the underlying layers, which increases deflections or eruptions. Constant traffic flow over a damaged area exacerbates the problem and relatively small areas of damage quickly become enlarged.

It is pointless and counter-productive to attempt repair during inclement weather (unless such a distressed area is a major hazard).

Such damage impacts on road safety. Apart from damage to vehicle suspension etc., motorcyclists and cyclists are obliged to swerve to avoid potholes, thus placing themselves and other road users at risk.

The RAC report that drivers contribute more than £45bn in motoring taxation every year: 5p a litre from existing fuel duty over five years would raise £12bn – that’s the estimated one-off cost of fixing our roads.

In order to avoid drifting into becoming a first-world society with third-world highway infrastructure and in order to avoid the risk of litigation, those with the power to shape the budgets of local authorities must drill through the electorate’s humorous coping mechanisms and seriously address the problem caused by quick-fix, band-aid solutions to the maintaining of the County’s roads – both major and minor, which simply don’t hack it.

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