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Pothole Repair Criteria To Change As New Highways Contract Begins In West Sussex

14th April 2020 | By Peter Chapman

The criteria for the repair of potholes is going to change with the start of a new highways maintenance contract across West Sussex.

Richard Speller - Highways Manager for the Mid Sussex area, revealed at a public meeting at the end of February, that WSCC will be taking on a risk-based approach for the repair of potholes.

The 'old' system in place required all reported potholes measuring 40mm in depth to be repaired within 28 days, but with the new contract starting on April 1st, county were going to move to a risk-based approach which would see A & B classified roads set a lower requirement for repair, but C & D road defects needing to be deeper than 40mm in order for a repair to be carried out. (Note: due to Covid-19, we don't offically know what has been decided)

Why have the roads been allowed to deteriorate so badly?
At February's South Mid Sussex County Local Committee meeting, a Burgess Hill resident wanted to know why the roads had been allowed to deteriorate so badly, why it takes half a dozen visits to fix adjacent faults and why some potholes are fixed so badly that they reappear after mere days in some cases.

Richard Speller - Highways Manager For Mid Sussex

In repsonse,
Mr Speller said he was unable to answer the first question as the budget for road repairs was a political issue.   He advised people that the quickest way to get a pothole repaired  is to report them via the WSCC website or via the council’s app. He said that WSCC are currently repairing around 100 pothloles a day, and is "being delivered through a lump sum contract though our current contractor,  so you as a taxpayer don’t pay any more for the increased number of repairs that are being carried out this year."

Mr Speller started that the contractor has complete flexibility as to how they deal with potholes and the amount of times they choose to visit a site, as long as the repairs are done within 28 days of a pothole being reported.  “If they are inefficient in the way they deliver that service, then that’s for them to control”

Mr Speller said that the contact centre were receiving over 800 pothole reports per day in February.  "There is a formal inspecting process and gangs are out on the roads looking for potholes."

He explained that the lorries leave the depot with enough tarmac to carry out the repairs listed on their sheets, so often they don’t have enough spare to carry out additional work if there’s multiple potholes nearby in the same road.

Costings play a big part in how the contractor chooses to act. “A permanent, proper repair costs around £250,  whereas a temporary repair we often see, only cost £35. The contractor has to balance the risk as to which ones they do properly as they carry the liability. 

"In order to keep our liability down, we set ourselves a challenge that potholes will be filled within 28 days, if our contractor fails that, he carries the liability if somebody punctures a tyre – not you as taxpayers.  It’s a much more complex process than just filling potholes, there’s an awful lot of liability involved and don’t forget that there’s a million people per day driving around our networks.”
he said.

What About The Cyclists?

A cyclist from Burgess Hill addressed the meeting to say that he’s worried that the first death of a cyclist from a pothole related incident is inevitable, he wants to see prioritising of fixing potholes which are a danger to cyclists. 

Mr Speller said he didn’t disagree with the gentleman but pointed out that just 60p per week from council tax pays of highway maintenance.  “I’ll deliver whatever service you want, but I suspect the answer will be that you don’t want to increase your council tax bill” said Mr Speller.

Poor management to blame for our roads?
Burgess Hill resident, Gordon Parr, was at the meeting, he blamed the management at West Sussex County Council and the lack of supervision on work carried out on the highways by contractors for why our roads are in such a poor state. He claimed that potholes were a ‘red herring’ in all of this.

He also said: “I think there needs to be an explanation - a demographic map of the Mid Sussex area where West Sussex Highways are concerned – what are the roads that are beyond economic repair?

"The problem is that the cost of repairing those roads, or patching them up, will exceed the cost of replacing them in the next 3-5 years, and unless someone has got their head screwed on from a strategic management point of view and can actually show what the economic path is, then we are absolutely screwed and we’ll be playing ping pong ball backwards and forth with Mr Speller about potholes, drains that keep overflowing and everything else”

Seen a bad pothole in Burgess Hill? Report it online via 'Love West Sussex' here:

Spread the word! The criteria for repairing potholes is changing.

Got an opinion on this story? Leave a comment below.....
What do you think of the state of Burgess Hill's roads? Do you think WSCC Highways should pay more attention to the root cause of the problem - the actual conidition of roads and not just spot-fixing potholes as they appear?

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