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Highways information [v]

Information on your highways.


Requests for road repairs and complaints about potholes are probably two of the hottest topics residents want to discuss with the council. In particular, questions like:  “why don’t we repair every pothole?”  and “why do highways just repair the big potholes, surely this isn’t efficient? “, are common.  This section will provide you an answer to those questions and give you an insight into how we prioritises pothole repairs as well as the current state of the County’s road network. 

Let’s start by being honest. In Gloucestershire we cannot afford to repair every defect on our road network. This is why we have to prioritise repair works.  Recent modelling work estimates the backlog of repair works in the county in the region of approximately £80 million.  

Funding for Highways Maintenance

This year the council will spend over £ 25 million on maintaining and repairing its 3,600 miles of roads.  Most of the money is concentrated on planned and prioritised resurfacing / surface dressing from capital funding, the remainder is spent on routine maintenance - mostly pothole and patching repairs – from our revenue funding. Budget summaries are shown at the end of this document.  

Roads naturally deteriorate over time from the wearing action of traffic and affects of weather.  On average across our entire network our roads deteriorate between 3% and 4% per year.  We estimate that to repair this annual deterioration we need to invest £15.1 million per year in planned works in the form of resurfacing and surface dressing.  We know this from detailed modelling work which is based on road condition survey data that is collected every year.

Ideally we want to spend more money on preventing potholes from forming so our strategy is to invest as much of our available funds as possible on planned structural maintenance works such as resurfacing, patching and surface dressing.  Perversely, if we have a bad weather year and as a result have to invest more of our funding on routine maintenance to repair safety defects potholes, then less is available for structural maintenance works.  With the amount of new repair work needed and existing backlog far outstripping the available funding, both capital spend on structural maintenance and revenue spend on routine maintenance has to be prioritised. 

How pothole repairs are prioritised

We are often asked “why has a work gang turned up and only repaired a few potholes when there are others right next to them that need repair?”  The short answer is that we can only afford to repair those defects which are likely to be a hazard. We classify these as safety defects. When resources allow, we often do try to repair adjoining or nearby ‘non-safety’ defects, but the reality is, especially during the winter months when lots of potholes are forming, that we can only repair the safety defects.  Given our limited resources we have to prioritise which defects are repaired. This prioritisation is done through the ‘Highway Safety Inspection’ regime.

As Highway Authority we have responsibility under the Highways Act to maintain the road network in as safe a condition as is reasonably practicable.  In order to discharge this duty, we must follow the national code of practice for regularly inspecting and repairing safety defects. Our Highway Safety Inspection Policy sets out how frequently roads are inspected and what type and size of defects are repaired using a risk based approach.  High traffic volume, high speed roads are inspected more frequently (monthly) where as low traffic, lower speed roads are inspected less frequently.

How the ‘Highway Safety Inspection Policy’ works

All highway authorities are required to regularly inspect roads as per the national code of practice (Well-managed Highway infrastructure 2016) - this recommends using a risk based approach for classifying safety defects based on road hierarchy.  We have a robust safety inspection policy which sets out strict criteria for the type of potholes which are classified as ‘safety defects’ and we repair these on a prioritised risk assessed basis.  It has been successfully tested in court on a number of occasions and has been identified as an example of best practice nationally. Every road is inspected on at least an annual basis with strategic roads every month. 

Safety defects are those carriageway or footway defects which are likely to cause a hazard – mainly potholes but also loose/broken kerbs, broken sign posts protruding into the carriageway or footway, vegetation overgrowing the footway forcing pedestrians to step into the road etc etc.  Our policy uses the risk based approach to define the size criteria for those defects considered to be a hazard and for those likely to become hazardous before the next inspection.  Hazardous defects (also known as Category 1 safety defects) are repaired within one working day.  Defects likely to become hazardous if not repaired soon are classified as Category 2 safety defects and scheduled for repair within 28 days.   Other, ‘non-safety’ defects not meeting the criteria are not scheduled for repair, but some are noted for investigation at the next scheduled inspection.  Where possible, and when resources allow, gangs will repair ‘other’ defects.

The criterion varies depending on the type of road.  For example, large potholes on high speed high volume roads are typically repaired within 24 hours of us locating them and the criteria (depth and size) are set at a standard equivalent to the risks associated with the road. On a minor road with low speeds and low traffic volumes almost all defects are classified as Category 2 and only very deep and large defects in the running lanes are repaired urgently.  In this way, the inspection policy helps us maintain a balance between reactive works (next working day) and planned works of about 20% reactive and 80% planned.  Planned works are more efficient as the work can be grouped and gangs dispatched to site with the right equipment and materials.  It means gangs spend less time driving between defects and more time carrying out repairs.  

You will often see white rings painted around defects after safety inspectors have carried out an inspection, these indicate 28 day repairs, white X’s indicate next working day repairs. We only use short term repairs (referred to as “splat & pat”) when we know we are due to resurface / patch a road and we just need to make the defect safe until that happens.

In recent years we have improved our pothole repair processes by introducing electronic data capture and works ordering communications.  This has help eliminate unnecessary back-office data entry of inspection records.  In addition, it means

that works can be better planned, programmed and communicated to gangs on the ground reducing gang downtime and allowing more defects to be repaired.  You will see from the pothole repair process on the next page how the defect repair process uses technology to improve efficiency.

Page updated: 18/10/2021 Page updated by: GCC

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