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The truth, the hole truth

Another flaw in the human character is that everybody wants to build and nobody wants to do maintenance.

I got stuck at four sets of roadworks on my way to the office this morning. It’s only 17 miles. Two of them were within a mile of each other.

While this is obviously frustrating, it a) gives me more time to shout at callers to the local radio phone-in programme and b) shows that there is, finally, some money being spent on our roads. Because all four of those sets of roadworks were to do with mending potholes.

Potholes get mended – hurrah! It’s about time. A friend’s husband runs a garage and he tells me that the majority of issues he and his guys are dealing with at the moment are related to cars driving on rubbish roads. Potholes are a major factor in causing axle & suspension failure, which costs British motorists an estimated £2.8bn a year.

You can, in theory, claim compensation for damage caused to your car by potholes, if you can prove that the local authority knew about the pothole and did nothing about it. The problem, of course, as that you have to prove that and also that you have to take pictures. There aren’t many roads on my way to work that I’d feel happy hopping out and snapping away as the juggernauts fly past. Still, the website pothole.co.uk (I love the fact that we live in a world where potholes have their own presence on the internet) reckons that authorities currently pay out more than £30m in compensation claims due to poor roads.

The problem is, like pretty much everything else in this country, road maintenance is underfunded. We could spent twice as much as we do and we would still barely complete everything that requires doing.  We could throw an extra billion quid at the problem and it would just get swallowed up.

The issue was highlighted on the BBC One TV show The One Show at the end of November in a sequence called Pothole Wars, where three methods of repairing potholes were tested by judges Keith Jones, director of the Institution of Civil Engineers, who has over 40 years’ experience of highways maintenance, the AA’s Patrol of the Year 2017 Vince Crain and Victoria Hazael, from Cycling UK.

The clip is here POTHOLE WARS and it makes interesting viewing.

However, since then we’ve had one of the wettest Decembers on record, followed by two of the coldest freezes as the Beast from the East covered the country in Siberian temperatures. In between which, in Kent anyway, we had a few days when the thermometer reached an almost balmy 13deg C.  None of which is any good for long term road maintenance.

I reckon those four sets of roadworks are only the beginning.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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