Posted by: westlancashirerecord | March 20, 2017

What Pothole Crisis?

After writing about the deep pothole that damaged the Aughton Parish Chairman’s tyre I soon noticed jobsworth had been out with a bucket of tarmac and gravel to fill it and two days later cars had re-created the pothole. So how would we feel if there was a system that can fill potholes in three minutes and the repair would last for three years?

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), whose members provide road maintenance services to local authorities has revealed that a combination of bad weather, rising traffic levels and decades of underfunding are taking their toll on the nation’s roads. AIA chairman Ian MacKenzie thinks local roads are deteriorating at a faster rate than they can be repaired, and more significant problems for the future are building unseen below the surface. Local councils agree. The Local Government Association (LGA) said addressing what it called the “roads crisis” was becoming increasingly urgent, but the average highway maintenance budget per local authority had fallen by 16%.

Roads are weakened from beneath by rising groundwater and from above by tyres forcing water into cracks, compressing the surface and breaking it open. On top of that, utility companies are continually digging up roads, and their repairs are often poor. Some councils are increasing pothole intervention levels for repairs from a hole size of 40mm to 60mm. There are apparently 2.2 million potholes being repaired every year, at a total cost of nearly £120 million. The resulting potholes, and 70% of councils define a pothole as being a 40mm-deep cavity in the road, can shred tyres and crack wheels. In a 2016 survey, 39% of the AA’s members claimed their cars had been damaged by potholes. Of this number, 28% said a wheel, its tyre and the car’s tracking had been damaged.

But all is not lost. Amey, a road repair contractor, has an “Archway Roadmaster 295”  costing £175,000, now being used around the country. Paul Anderson, Amey’s account manager, says the repairs it makes are good for at least three years. “Around 90% of potholes are in the top ‘wearing course’” he says. “This machine allows us to get to more potholes earlier in their life cycle, preventing more serious damage”. It has a hydraulically operated boom extending from a large container on its back, over the cab and towards the road ahead, its driver searching for potholes.

When he finds one, he stops the vehicle and extends its boom towards the hole, into which it blows compressed air, scattering any debris.   Hot bitumen emulsion is then sprayed in and around the sides of the dry and pristine cavity. This seals the pothole and creates a bonding layer for the precisely targeted, high-velocity blast of aggregate and bitumen mix that follows. Then it releases a ‘pad coat’ of chippings onto the still-tacky bitumen, followed by a final spray of dry aggregate. GPS and cameras record the position and status of the pothole and the data is relayed to the council. Time taken from start to finish? Three minutes.

LGA transport spokesman Peter Box believes councils fixed a pothole every 15 seconds last year, but they remain trapped in a cycle that will only ever leave them able to patch up deteriorating roads. Following calls from local government for extra cash to repair potholes, a £250 million ‘pothole action fund’ was announced in last year’s Budget, and local councils will receive a total of £50m each year for the next five years to help pay for the repair of more than four million potholes. The average amount allowed for each repair is £53. A Department for Transport spokesman couldn’t explain how the figure was broken down but said the average repair cost was based on an AIA survey of local councils.

Actually the cost is closer to £60, not including compensation paid to motorists whose cars have been damaged. But if the Archway Roadmaster 295 does its job, our motorists will be hoping it fills and seals potholes for good. Anything to keep County Cllr John Fillis away from the Aughton judiciary must be good?


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