It seems that everywhere I go right now I hear about potholes. And that probably has something to do with there being potholes everywhere I drive! I’m clearly not alone in worrying about the state of the roads right now, and hoping the thump noise which my car just made going over that last one just then wasn’t anything too serious. I’ve recently joined the local Facebook group ‘Woking potholes’ which is ostensibly a place to warn others about the worst potholes and damage in the area, but perhaps also has the rather pleasing side effect of being a darn good place to whinge about the state of our roads and what is being done about it.
So exactly what is being done about it?
Well, the short answer is quite a lot, but there is an awful lot of damage out there and only so much money and resource to go around.
And now for the long answer.
Our roads are managed by Surrey County Council (not Woking Borough Council for this one – although goodness knows we do like to give them a hard time whenever we can), and in particular Councillor Colin Kemp is the Conservative Cabinet Member for Highways, and happens to live in Horsell, so he seems like a good place to start. First, lets read the highlights of what he had to say about the matter on Facebook recently:
“The average amount of pot holes reported over the last few years are February 3516, March 3851.
The figure for the same months this year are February 6524, March 8377.
So you can see the size of the issue we are dealing with and this is the worse it has been since the floods in 2013. We have also taken the decision to postpone some of the non-essential work to divert resource to identify and repair some of our roads.
Alongside that Kier have drafted in additional resource and where they would normally have about 8-12 crews out repairing our network there are currently 25 crews working in Surrey and they are looking to bring in more.”
“As you can imagine this is a major task. All defects are prioritised from P1 to P4 with P1 being an emergency response, we also have criteria built into the contract to manage the time scales they must react to the different criteria. For P2s, which must be reacted to within a few days, because of the amount of defects arising they are doing more temporary repairs to enable them to cover more ground and they will return at a future date to complete the repair. This does not cost the county any more money, this is an operation decision which allows the risk to be managed and enables Kier to meet the response criteria.” – Cllr Colin Kemp, 12th April 2018
As you can see, essentially what he’s saying is that potholes are cropping up more and more because our roads are facing some of the most significant challenges ever, as a whole pile of negative factors converge. The climate has put the composition of the roads under pressure – significant rainfall followed by extreme cold temperatures, followed by extreme heat, is just not what our roads are used to handling. (It could be argued that they should be built to withstand greater pressures, but in many cases that requires higher spend to begin with, and when UK climate is generally quite moderate rather than extreme, a local government which is already fiscally stretched will economise in as many ways as they can.) Surrey is becoming increasingly densely populated with more people living and working here than ever before, and more people using cars on a daily basis than ever before.
And this isn’t just a Surrey issue.
In April 2017, the Department for Transport for the UK government announced a £250million for the jazzily named Pothole Action Fund (£50million each year for the next 5 years). Of that, Surrey has been allocated just over £1million, which is calculated based the size of the local road network. The full statement is shown at the bottom of this article.
There is a very complex set of criteria which SCC use to determine the priority of maintenance works taking place on our roads. If you want to read more on that (or if you have trouble sleeping!) then take a look here.
The only way we can expect SCC to repair our roads is if they are told about there being a problem. Here are the WBC and SCC links for reporting problems that you see. Also, it is up to you to make a judgement call; if you think a particular road problem could have dangerous consequences, consider also reporting it to the police.
That thump noise really was something serious.
Don’t be put off trying to make a claim against SCC to repair the damage your car (or bike) has received. You may or may not be successful (in essence, it depends on whether they knew about it and whether they can prove they were “working on it”) but if the cost is significant – and what car repair cost isn’t significant?! – it might be worth the effort. Here are a few consumer rights articles to take a look at.
Department for Transport – Pothole Action Fund 2016-17
In April 2017 the government announced a £250m Pothole Action Fund. £50m will be made available each year for the next 5 years. Funding is calculated according to the size of the local road network in the area and for 2016-17, Surrey was allocated £1,033,000.
Surrey have used their allocation as part of a Preventative Programme to deal with both actual and potential potholes on our lower category roads. We have used a range of techniques including; hand lay patching, machine patching, jet patching, thermal patching and Rejuvophalt.
The 2016-17 Preventative Programme, which has cost £3m in total, has removed or prevented approximately 35,000 defects and therefore the funding from the Pothole Action Fund has removed over 10,000 potholes from the network. The innovative nature of this programme means that as well as removing or preventing potholes, we have also been able to add life back into the road network rather than just filling potholes.