Highways Agency plans to introduce new rules that require contractors to carry out emergency repairs only if potholes are more than 4cm deep or 15cm wide have come under fire from the industry.
The Road Surface Treatments Association fear that the new guidelines could result in motorways and trunk roads not being fit for purpose.
The new rules are a cost saving measure and counteract previous requirements that contractors must ensure that the road gave an ‘even, comfortable and quiet’ ride and called for minor defects to be repaired within 24 hours.
But the RSTA believe that the new instructions could prove to be an own goal with the Highways Agency having to pay more in repair bills and insurance claims.
Shallow pot holes can quickly become deeper and present a significant hazard to motorists particularly as they will be travelling at high speed.
“This is a short-sighted approach that could result in significant deterioration in the condition of and safety of motorways and trunk roads”, said Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive.
“It means that there will be less preventative maintenance which will ultimately cost the Highways Agency more. It costs of £2 m2 to surface dress and maintain a road but costs £75 m2 to repair potholes. There is also the potential safety issue of motorists swerving from one lane to another as they try to avoid a pothole.”
The Highways Agency aims to implement the new instructions in the West Country later this year and then introduce it nationally in 2015.
It mirrors similar moves by local authorities who have re-designated a pothole as only being a pothole if it is 4cm or deeper. This is double the previous designation of 2cm.
“We all know about the problem of potholes that is endemic throughout our local road network. Now we could be faced with our national trunk road network facing the same shortfall in preventative maintenance,” warned Robinson.