In a hole
I’ve just been reading a live traffic report that says: ‘One lane closed due to emergency repairs on the motorway, with traffic queuing over a distance of 15 miles and a delay of 70 minutes. The situation was exacerbated by a lorry bursting a tyre after hitting a pothole, and temporarily blocking one lane, and now the pothole is finally being repaired.’
As that was during the rush hour, an awful lot of people were affected and there was inevitably a cost to many businesses, not just the affected lorry. Thank goodness it was a lorry that hit the hole and not a motorcyclist, as the resulting crash would probably have killed them.
Potholes spread like a bad rash after any bout of wet and frosty weather, and the UK has had more than its fair share of that this year. Water freezes into existing cracks in the road surface, expanding them further, and then traffic causes even more wear. Subsequent rain washes out any loosened material and a pothole forms.
I forget which website it was, and it probably wasn’t in this country, but I recall seeing video footage of a chap wearing swimming trunks and wading around in a very large water-filled pothole, under the caption ‘Is this the world’s largest pothole?’
It’s fun to laugh about it, unless it’s your budget that is being hit. Broken wheels, damaged tyres and suspension, and chipped and cracked windscreens can seriously add up. Oh, and the additional hire costs while the car is off the road being fixed, and the inconvenience, and the lost working time. It’s estimated that one in three drivers experienced damage due to potholes during the past two years.
www.potholes.co.uk – yes, such a website really exists – blames the laying of cheap materials to fix our roads over the past 10 to 15 years, and says all that under-investment is finally coming home to roost.
It has become simpler to report the location of potholes over the past few years, with many councils having easily accessible details and a much better customer attitude. This may be due to adopting a code of practice called Well Maintained Highways, produced by Atkins in 2005.
No doubt the transport managers among you will know it. It is a very clear and detailed document of around 380 pages that includes recommendations on the frequency of defect inspections on different classes of road, and subsequent scoring of those defects on a risk matrix that will be familiar to anyone who has done health and safety training. And it also sets out how a council should deal with any claims emanating from those defects.
I haven’t tried to claim for damage caused by a road defect in years (I was successful when I did) but the website mentioned above was a mine of information on how to do so effectively and is definitely worth a look.
So with such a detailed code of practice to adhere to, the recent report that half of the local authorities in the UK are cutting their road maintenance budgets as a result of Government spending cuts is very bad news. The biggest hit is Kent, gateway to the UK, whose cut is around 20%. Look around as you drive and you can already see where maintenance has been curtailed – long grass at the roadside obscuring the view at busy junctions; signage partially hidden by overgrown trees, and gritting kept to a minimum or busy roads not treated at all. It doesn’t look as though we can expect any significant surfacing or other improvements any time soon.
Driving past a local garage the other day I saw someone had decided to try to profit from the pothole situation. They had put up a sign offering a free wheel check plus wash and vac for £19.99. Now that’s what I call enterprising.