Roddy Graham's blog: 14 February 2014 - Driven potty by potholes
14 February 2014
Roddy Graham is commercial director of Leasedrive and chairman of the ICFM
Imagine driving down a dark country lane at night. It's raining, the overhanging trees
are blocking the moonlight and a car heads towards you with its misaligned lights dazzling you.
The next thing you know is that there is a loud bang! You're inclined to think you've been hit, until you realise that in fact it's you who has hit something, in this case a large pothole.
You forget to report it, so driving with heightened awareness the following evening you try to spot where it is. At the last moment you see it, ring-fenced by a painted white circle.
Fortunately, someone else has reported it, and you miss it this time around. However, if you meet oncoming traffic on subsequent evenings you know that you will hear that same loud bang until it is filled.
In the past year, local councils in England alone paid out £23.8m to drivers in compensation claims according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), which also estimates the cost to councils of bringing our roads up to good condition is now £10.5bn.
The problem at the moment is that councils seem unwilling, just like central Government, to grasp the essential problem that the main road arteries supporting the flow of commercial activity in this country are deteriorating at an alarming rate.
This is not only having a knock-on effect in terms of increased traffic congestion, but is costing businesses and private motorists in terms of repairs from any pothole damage that they are unable to claim back from local authorities due to the difficulties of the compensation process.
It has been announced that the Government is to give CTC, the National Cycling Charity, £30,000 to further improve its FillThatHole. org.uk website and develop an Android app for smartphones in addition to its existing iPhone app.
Extending the app - developed originally for cyclists although now widely used by drivers - will enable potentially 26 million smartphone users to report potholes instantly to their local councils.
All well and good, but a blinkered short-term 'band aid' approach sees councils pay an average £70 for workmen to slop a blob of tarmac in a hole, sometimes without rolling over it and in many cases without sealing it.
This patching of our roads results in an uneven surface, which can cause further suspension and tyre damage not to mention accidents.
Inevitably, a large proportion of these patches have to be re-patched due to a failure to carry out a proper job in the first place.
Common sense, supported by research, says that a long-term approach to maintenance, involving proper repairs with rollers and edge sealants will ultimately cost councils less, save businesses and drivers unnecessary bills, keep UK PLC on the move and save lives and serious injuries.
Government has woken up to the fact and is encouraging councils to adopt new guidelines on planning extensive maintenance in advance rather than the current piecemeal approach.
It has backed this up by finding an extra £3bn for English councils to 2015/16 and a further £5.8bn to 2020/21.