RSTA wants national standard for repairing potholes

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called on local authorities to agree on a national standard when it comes to repairing potholes.  

It warns that without such a standard, cash-strapped local authorities may move the goal posts in order to try to save money by not repairing smaller potholes.

The RSTA’s warning follows the decision taken earlier this year by Perth and Kinross Council to redefine its classification of a pothole. The council has declared that potholes must now be 60mm deep – an increase of 50% from its previous 40mm classification – before they are repaired and filled.

“Local authorities are under immense financial pressure. However, they have a duty of care to ensure that roads are properly maintained. This, they recognise and they work hard to meet that obligation but the ongoing cutbacks in local authority budgets means that that they may move the road maintenance goal posts in order to save money,” said Howard Robinson (pictured), RSTA chief executive.

Although there is widespread adoption of the ‘Well-Maintained Highways Code of Practice’ this only offers guidance as to best practice. It does not provide a national definition of potholes. As a result there are differing approaches throughout the UK. In Gloucestershire, a road surface defect becomes a pothole if it is 4cm deep and 30cm wide. Neighbouring Worcestershire has the same depth criteria of 40mm but a smaller dimension of 20cm. In Bath, a smaller depth of 3cm is accepted as being a pothole. However, in Hounslow, London, a pothole will only be repaired urgently if it reaches 7.5cm. In Warwickshire, a pothole of up to 5cm is not considered to be hazardous and will only be repaired as part of routine maintenance six months after being reported. Potholes up to 10cm will take up to 28 days to be repaired. However, in Trafford a pothole warrants repair at 4cm in depth. By contrast, Herefordshire County Council “aims to record and treat all potholes regardless of depth”.

“The lack of a national pothole definition means that we have a postcode lottery of road repair as different local authorities take different approaches. There is no consistency,” adds Robinson. “Under the Road Traffic Act 1980 all local highway authorities have a duty of care to maintain their road network but there is no national definition or agreement as to when a pothole is a pothole.

“A national definition of at what depth and width a defect is recognised as being a pothole would enable a consistent road maintenance risk assessment, intervention and repair approach.”

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Comments

This is something I fully back and have been suggesting for years. National standards for intervention criteria, speed of repairs, colour coding marks for repair and national reporting system.

Finding agreement on the definition of a pothole is a tricky subject! This was encountered as part of a recent study conducted by TRL (Road Note 44, Best practice guide for the selection of pothole repair options). The study was funded by the Scottish Road Research Board to develop a consistent approach to selecting a pothole repair material or technique. The research was based on consultations with a range of practitioners from Scottish road authorities involved in repairing potholes. The guide attempts to define a pothole and encourages a risk-based approach to determining its severity. It also attempts to address the prickly subject of trying to assess whether a defect is a localised pothole or a defect in an area of failed surfacing. The guide contains flowcharts that have been developed to aid the selection of the most appropriate repair option to treat defects located in different situations. It is intended that the adoption of a consistent approach will lead to savings in the cost of pothole repairs. RN44 is available as a free download at http://www.trl.co.uk/reports-publications/road-notes/report/?reportid=7042.