Research & reports

Title: What is a pothole? A look at Local Highways Authorities road maintenance policy

Organisation: RAC Foundation
Date uploaded: 12th February 2019
Date published/launched: December 2018

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This report by the RAC Foundation shows that local highway authorities are increasingly adopting a ‘risk-based’ approach to fixing potholes.

Based on data received from 190 of the 207 local highway authorities in Britain, the report says 75% (142) had already moved to a risk-based approach by autumn 2018.

A further 15 (8%) said they were about to move to the new system or were reviewing their existing practices.

The ‘risk-based’ approach is recommended as best practice by the UK Roads Liaison Group, a collaboration of both national and local government.

Under this approach, councils not only take into consideration the size, width and depth of a pothole – but also the type of road, the volume of traffic the road carries and the mix of road users.

The RAC Foundation analysis also shows almost all authorities still set minimum investigation levels – based on depth and width measurements – below which they won’t assess potholes, nor assign response times based on the dangers they pose.

While 37 local highway authorities said they would investigate when a pothole was between 20-30mm deep, 26 others said the depth had to be at least 50mm or more.

In terms of repair times, the analysis reveals the quickest-acting councils in Great Britain aim to fill in the most severe potholes in their roads within minutes.

Cumbria, Flintshire and South Lanarkshire aim to act ‘immediately’ to repair potholes that pose the greatest risk to the state of the road and the safety of drivers and riders.

The most common response time to the most urgent problems is two hours, with 79 councils looking to patch up the road within this period.

At the other end of the scale it can take some councils three or more days to intervene.

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