Department for Transport issues pothole warning

Cyclist going through potholeImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption 2018’s cold spring was partly to blame for an increase in potholes

Firms that dig up the roads would have to guarantee they remained pothole-free for five years, under new Department for Transport (DfT) proposals.

At the moment, utility companies only guarantee roadworks for two years.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Imposing higher standards on repairs will help keep roads pothole-free for longer.”

But a utilities sector spokesperson said it was unnecessary to increase the guarantee.

Street Works UK represents gas, electricity, water, sewage and telecoms companies. Chief executive, Clive Bairsto, said: “The Government should not take forward proposals unless they are supported by a strong evidence base.”

“Utilities and their contractor partners play a vital role in delivering and maintaining vital infrastructure which powers the economy, and it is crucial that any new regulations are proportionate.”

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Companies that dig up the roads may have to guarantee the work for five years

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Potholes are the biggest enemy for road users and this Government is looking at all options to keep our roads in the best condition.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation said: “A five-year guarantee might cause the utility companies to sit up and take notice, but only if they believe local highway authorities will have the resource to monitor the state of repairs up to five years after they have been done.”

The DfT is also proposing to allow innovative road surfacing techniques which could cut the number of potholes, such as asphalt with a high bitumen content.

Image copyright PA

Rising costs

The pothole issue is rising up the political agenda, as the repair bill mounts. The government has said that last year’s cold spring weather was at least partly to blame for an increase in the number of pothole problems.

In October’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond promised an extra £420m for councils in England to deal with “potholes, repair damaged roads, and invest in keeping bridges open and safe”.

A freedom-of-information request by the RAC to Highways England found there were 528 successful claims relating to vehicle damage caused by potholes in 2017/18 – more than double the 212 recorded the year before.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) – whose members supply much of the materials used for filling in holes – claims one in five local roads in England and Wales is in a poor condition and £8bn is needed to carry out a one-time, thorough fix of potholes in England.

The AA has called for learner drivers to have to prove they can spot potholes to pass the driving test.

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