Highways Agency revises pothole protocol

10.31 | 9 August 2011 | | 3 comments

Potholes measuring less than 15cm wide or 4cm deep are not classed as urgent for repair, according to new Highways Agency guidelines.

The new guidelines refer to trunk roads and motorways. Previously contractors were required to repair any defects in the surface of a road within a 24-hour timeframe.

A recent increase in potholes has been put down as a consequence of three severe winters combined with years of under investment in routine road maintenance.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy, said: “This just seems to be storing up larger repair bills for the future. All large potholes start off as small potholes – it’s easier and cheaper to fix them early and reduce the risk to road users.

“The reaction of the Highways Agency to this crisis is worrying because it seems to be an attempt to switch their legal responsibilities to maintain safe motorways and trunk roads from themselves to their contractors, in the hope they will come up with something.

“The Highways Agency’s roads are the backbone of the country’s transport system which is why the IAM would like to see their risk assessment of this decision to be assured that motorists will not be put at risk.”

For more information contact the IAM Press Office 020 8996 9777.


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    Bob Craven is exactly right. This decision shows a complete disregard for a whole section of road users, especially cyclists. 3.9cm is easily deep enough to damage a front wheel and unseat a rider. Who will be responsible if a cyclist is forced into traffic either by taking evasive action or by collision with a pothole that has been intentionally ignored? At least the Highways Agency should specify that potholes within 1 metre of the kerb should still be given priority.

    Peter Jones, North Lincolnshire
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    It’s the idea of making savings in real terms (not spending the money on repairs) against theoretical savings (not spending money if a collision occurs) that once again raises it’s head. There’s clearly a line between what we will and wont spend money on to prevent road death and injury and this line will move as budgets get tighter.

    Dave, Leeds
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    Once again we find an organisation charged with the responsibility for our safety passing the buck. I find it interesting that the size of the pothole is actually less than the width of a car tyre……… but not that of a twv, a motorcycle, a bicycle and a scooter which also has small wheels only maybe 30cm in diameter, so he is going to be affected badly by such a pothole.

    What would happen if there were a number of small potholes grouped together. would they be considered as a whole or should I say hole or as individual holes and therefore not considered important or dangerous enough for emergency treatment.

    The other problem which a member of the Institute of Highway Engineers should also take into account is the debris that comes from such a pothole. This debris is like riding on ice for a twv and could be responsible for unseating the rider should he unfortunately ride over it, in maybe an attempt to miss the pothole itself.

    This decision is a bad one and affects the most vulnerable users of the road and should be squashed without delay.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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