Dramatic pothole compensation claim rise despite increase in road repairs

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By Ben Purvis

Writing about bikes for 20 years. Published in dozens of titles on five continents. Mildly obsessed with discovering how things work.

Dramatic pothole compensation claim rise despite increase in road repairs

 

IN 2018 Highways England repaired 22,862 potholes, up from 14,104 in 2017. It also paid compensation following damage report claims of £81,500 in 2017 rising spectacularly to £329,379 last year. But what exactly is a pothole?

It seems like a pretty straightforward question – after all, you know one when you see (or feel) it – but the answer actually changes depending on where you live.

That’s because Britain’s roads are cared for by a network of 207 Local Highways Authorities, each with their own budgets, problems and priorities, and each allowed to come up with its own set of rules that defines when a road defect becomes a pothole that needs fixing. And even once a pothole reaches that critical threshold there’s an equally diverse set of response times and reactions. The overall result is that a pothole that gets fixed within hours on one stretch of road might be left for much longer – or allowed to get worse – if it was just a few yards away, across the boundary into another LHA’s territory.

The vast variation between different areas is highlighted by a set of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests sent out by the RAC Foundation late last year. Of the 207 Authorities, 190 provided enough data for the RAC Foundation to pull together a comprehensive comparison of the varying thresholds and response times around the country.

The results show that, encouragingly, most (75%) of the LHAs now adopt a ‘risk-based approach’ to fixing potholes. That means rather than ticking specific boxes about pothole dimensions before triggering a repair, LHAs assess the potential dangers, both to people and vehicles, and base their decisions to fix holes on those risks. However, most still have dimensional thresholds that the potholes must exceed before they even enter the risk-assessment phase, and there’s a wide disparity of those thresholds across the nation.

The RAC’s FoI revealed that in some parts of the country (12 LHAs) there’s no specific threshold, and any reported road damage will automatically be risk-assessed. In another 37 LHA, small potholes between 20mm to 30mm deep would get assessed, while at the other end of the scale there were 26 LHAs that won’t even initiated a risk-assessment, let alone a repair, until the hole is more than 50mm in depth. For car drivers, that could be the difference between an uncomfortable thump and a puncture or dented wheel rim. For motorcyclists the stakes are rather higher.

Even the chance of a pothole being recorded in the first place varies from place to place. Although there is a Code of Practise for LHAs that recommends checking primary and secondary roads once a month, link roads once every three months and local roads once a year, only 28% of LHAs actually follow that guidance. In all, the RAC Foundation discovered there are 109 different inspection frequencies used between the 190 authorities that responded to its investigation. As well as these inspections, authorities will also check on potholes reported by the public; so if you see or hit a pothole that looks like it poses a danger, it’s worth reporting it as it could be weeks or months before the next scheduled check on any particular piece of road.

Even once a pothole has reached the threshold of size required for a risk-assessment, there’s a wide variation in response times depending on the LHA area that it falls within and the results of that assessment. But even then, there’s still a broad spread of responses.

In some areas, potholes assessed to be in the worst category will be fixed ‘immediately’, with 8% aiming to be on the case within an hour for the most dangerous holes and 42% aiming at a two-hour limit. But here the postcode lottery for potholes is clear once again – in Harrow, for instance, the worst holes will be fixed within 30 minutes, while in Coventry the target time for fixing holes of the same class is five days.

Reactions to less severe potholes are similarly diverse, with 18% of LHAs aiming to fix the least-urgent ones within 28 days, while 25% will leave it until the next ‘programmed works’ on that stretch of road and 13% will simply monitor the hole, leaving repairs until it gets bad enough to slide into a riskier category.

If you want to know how your local authority does, check out the full list of responses to the RAC Foundation’s Freedom of Information request below.

Away from LHA roads, potholes are also an increasing problem on motorways and strategic roads operated nationwide by Highways England. A Freedom of Information inquiry in December revealed that Highways England repaired 22,862 potholes in 2018, up from 14,104 in 2017. It also showed that the amount of compensation paid following damage report claims rose spectacularly, from £81,500 in 2017 to £329,379.

Local Highway Authority

Response times for defects, most serious first

Depth of pothole needed to get assessed

Aberdeen City

2 hours , 7 days , 28 days , 3 months

35mm

Aberdeenshire

4 hours , 7 days , 30 days , Programmed works

Risk based

Angus

24 hours , 5 days , 28 days , Recorded - may be included in next available programme

40mm, 75mm wide

Argyll & Bute

4 hours , 7 days , 30 days , monitor

40mm

Barking and Dagenham

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 27 days , Planned works

Risk based

Barnet

2 hours , 48 hours , 7 days , 28 days

50mm

Barnsley

24 hours , 1 month

50m, 150mm wide

Bath and North East Somerset

No data

No data

Bedford

2 hours , 24 hours , Within 8 weeks

25mm, 150mm wide

Bexley

1 hour , 90 days

40mm, 200mm wide

Birmingham

1 hour , Next day , 7 days , 28 days , 3-6 months , 6-1 year , Monitor

Risk based

Blackburn with Darwen

4 hours , 2 days , 10 days , 15 days , 20 days (25 days)

40mm, 150mm wide

Blackpool

24 hours , 5 days , 5 weeks , Consider for planned works

40mm but with discretion of inspector

Blaenau Gwent

No data

No data

Bolton

2 hours , 24 hours , 14 days , 28 days , Consider for future planned works , Review at next inspection

40mm

Bournemouth

36 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Not defined

40mm

Bracknell Forest

1 hour , 24 hours , 28 days

50mm and <0.25sqm

Bradford

24 hours , 5 days , Next available work programme

40mm

Brent

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Monitor/planned works

30mm, 100sqcm2

Bridgend

24 hours , 28 days

40mm

Brighton and Hove

24 hours , 28 days , Recorded

40mm

Bristol

2 hours , 10 days

40mm

Bromley

2 hours , 10 days , 35 days

30mm

Buckinghamshire

2 hours , 2 days , 5 days , 28 days , planned works

40mm, 300mm wide

Bury

2 hours , 7 days , 28 days , 60 days , Next available programme

40mm

Caerphilly

2 hours , 24 hours , 28 days (all others)

40mm

Calderdale

2 hours , 1 day , 5 days , Agreed timescale

40mm

Cambridgeshire

2 hours , 5 days , 21 days , 12 weeks

20mm, 75mm wide

Camden

No data

30mm

Cardiff

2 hours , Next working day , 28 days , Programmed works

30mm, 0.09sqm

Carmarthenshire

2 hours , 24 hours , Programmed works

40mm

Central Bedfordshire

2 hours , 5 days , Programmed works, unless within 10m of a Cat 1 defect (then treat as a Cat 1)

50mm, 150mm wide (two directions)

Ceredigion

Within 24 hours , 5 days , 20 days , Assessment and inclusion in short/medium term programmes

20mm

Cheshire East

1.5 hours , Next working day , 5 days

50mm

Cheshire West and Chester

1.5 hours , 24 hours , 5 days

50mm

City of London

3 hours , 7 days , 7 week if road/lane closure is needed

20mm

Clackmannanshire

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Monitor/next available programme

40mm, 100mm x 100mm

Conwy

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , consider for planned maintenance

30mm, 150mm wide

Cornwall

48 hours , 48 hours , 72 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Next available programme

40mm

County Durham

24 hours , 14 days , 3 months , 1 year

40mm, 300mm wide

Coventry

5 days , 40 days

40mm

Croydon

No data

No data

Cumbria

Immediate , 1 day , 5 days , 1,3,6 or 1 year , Next programmed works , Monitor

40mm

Darlington

No data

40mm

Denbighshire

2 hours , 10 days , 4 months

50mm, 300mm wide

Derby

1 hour , 36 hours , 13 days , 28 days , Recorded/next available works , Monitor

40mm

Derbyshire

Next day , Risk based , Planned works

40mm

Devon

2 hours , Next working day , 7 days , 28 days , Monitor

40mm, 300mm wide

Doncaster

2 hours , 5 days , 25 days , Planned works programme

40mm, 250mm wide

Dorset

2 hours , 32 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Planned works

20mm, 300m wide

Dudley

24 hours , 7 days

20mm

Dumfries & Galloway

No data

No data

Dundee City

4 hours , 5 days , 30 days , Monitor/next available programme

40mm

Ealing

1 hour , 7 days , 30 days

25mm

East Ayrshire

2 hours , 5 days , 10 days , 28 days

40mm, 75mm wide

East Dunbartonshire

4 hours , 7 days , 30 days , monitor/next available programme

Risk based

East Lothian

24 hours , 5 days , 3 months , monitor/next available programme

40mm. 150mm wide

East Renfrewshire

2 hours , 8 days

40mm

East Riding of Yorkshire

No data

No data

East Sussex

2 hours , 5 days , 28 days

40mm, 200mm wide

Edinburgh

24 hours , 4 days , 28 days , Monitor/1 year

<40mm

Enfield

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days

40mm

Essex

2 hours , County route: 2 days & Local 5: days , Considered for planned works , Monitor/non-planned timescale

50mm, 75mm wide

Falkirk

24 hours , 5 days , 4 weeks , Next available programme

30mm

Fife

24 hours , 5 days , Next available programme

40mm

Flintshire

Immediate , >40mm within 3 working days , <40mm review at next inspection

40mm

Gateshead

24 hours , 10 days , 40 days

40mm

Glasgow City

No data

No data

Gloucestershire

2 hours , 1 working day , 28 days , 3 months

40mm

Greenwich

2 hours , 24 hours , 28 days , Other

40mm

Gwynedd

24 hours , 3 months

40mm

Hackney

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , 56 days

20mm

Halton

2 hours , 24 hours , 5 days , 12 days , 28 days

40mm

Hammersmith and Fulham

2 hours , 24 hours , 28 days , Next available programme

40mm, 40mm wide

Hampshire

2 hours , 24 hours , 2 months

40mm, 300mm wide

Haringey

2 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Planned works

25mm, 100sqcm

Harrow

30mins , 1 hour , 2 hours , 5 days , 15 days

40mm

Hartlepool

1 hour , 24 hours , 28 days

40mm

Havering

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days

40mm, 300mm wide

Herefordshire

A and B roads and prestige footways: end of the following day , 7 days , 28 days , 2 months , Consider forward planning

Risk based

Hertfordshire

24 hours, 5-20 days permanent repair, Assess and decide strategy

50mm

Highland

Within 24 hours , 7 days , 21 days , 42 days , Planned work as resource permits

No specified interventions levels

Hillingdon

No data

No data

Hounslow

24 hours , 28 days , 46 days , Next available works

40mm

Inverclyde

4 hours , 7 days , 30 days , No action - recorded but might be included in next planned maintenance

<40mm

Isle of Anglesey

1hr , 24 hours , 28 days

20mm

Isle of Wight

24 hours, 28 days, Planned maintenance, Noted: no works

Risk based

Isles of Scilly

48 hours

No data

Islington

4 hours, 3 days, planned works

40mm

Kensington and Chelsea

2 hours, 24 hours, 28 days

40mm

Kent

2 hours, Next working day, 7 days, 28 days, Programmed works

50mm

Kingston upon Hull

24 hours, 5 days, Planned works programme

40mm, 40mm wide

Kingston upon Thames

2 hours, 24 hours, 7 days, 28 days, Recorded for future work programme

50mm

Kirklees

24 hours, 7 days, 28 days , Planned works

Risk based

Knowsley

2 hours , 24 hours , 28 day , Monitor/next available works

40mm, 300mm wide

Lambeth

2-24 hours , 28 days

40mm, 300mm wide

Lancashire

4 hours, 2 days, 5 days, 10 days, 20 days

40mm, 150mm wide

Leeds

Made safe or repaired by end of next day , Made safe or repaired within 28 working days , Repair by service owner

40mm

Leicester

Same day , 2 days , 5 days , 20 days

40mm

Leicestershire

72 hours , 90 days, 90 days , 1 year

Up to 40mm

Lewisham

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days

50mm

Lincolnshire

24 hours , 7 days, 28 days or 90 days

40mm

Liverpool

2 hours , 25 days

25mm

Luton

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days

50mm

Manchester

2 hours , 24 hours , 5 days , 20 days

30mm

Medway

No data

No data

Merthyr Tydfil

24 hours , 20 days , 30 days , No set time

40mm

Merton

No data

No data

Middlesbrough

2 hours , 24 hours , 5 days , 28 days , Next available programme

40mm, 300mm wide

Midlothian

24 hours , 28 days

40mm, 200mm wide

Milton Keynes

24 hours , 28 days , Planed maintenance

50mm

Monmouthshire

24 hours , 10 days , 4 weeks , No set target response time

40mm

Moray

2 hours , 3 days , 28 days , 6 months

20mm, 150mm wide

Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles)

24 hours , 7 days , 1 month , 3 months/next programme

40mm

Neath Port Talbot

2 hours , 24 hours , 35 days

40mm

Newcastle upon Tyne

No data

No data

Newham

2 hours , 24 hours , 10 days , 28 days , Monitor/next available programme

25mm

Newport

24 hours , 5 days , 21 days , Planned works

40mm

Norfolk

2 hours , 4 days , 35 days , monitor/next available programme

20mm

North Ayrshire

4 hours , 7 days , 30 days , No action - recorded but might be included in next planned maintenance

<40mm

North East Lincolnshire

24 hours , 3 weeks , 6 weeks , 3 months , Review at next inspection

40mm, 300mm wide

North Lanarkshire

1.5 hours , 2 hours , 5 working days , 20 working days , 55 working days

40mm

North Lincolnshire

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Programmed works

40mm

North Somerset

24 hours , 28 days

40mm, 300mm wide

North Tyneside

4 hours , 14 days , Planned works

40mm, 300mm wide

North Yorkshire

2 hours , 24 hours , 1 week , 1 month , 3 months

40mm, 150mm wide in all directions

Northamptonshire

2 hours , 5 days , 28 days

40mm

Northumberland

24 hours , 12 days , 28 days , Monitor/next available programme

40mm, 300mm wide

Nottingham

within 24 hours , 28 days , 3 months

50mm. 300mm wide

Nottinghamshire

No data

No data

Oldham

2 hours , 24 hours , 14 days , 28 days , Review at next inspection

40mm

Orkney Islands

Made safe 2 hours, 24 hours for repair , made safe 24 hours, 5 days for repairs , 28 days

50mm, 150mm wide

Oxfordshire

2 hours , 24 hours , 28 days , Monitor/planned works

40mm, 150mm wide

Pembrokeshire

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , 3 months

20mm

Perth and Kinross

4 hours , 7 days , 30 days , No action - recorded but might be included in next planned maintenance

<40mm

Peterborough

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Monitor and/or programmed works

20mm

Plymouth

2 hours , 5 days

40mm, 300mm wide

Poole

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , next available programme

40mm, 150mm wide

Portsmouth

24 hours , 28 days

20mm

Powys

24 hours , 2 months , 1 year , 24 months

Risk based

Reading

3 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days

50mm, 300mm x 300mm area

Redbridge

2 hours , Next working day , 3 days , 28 days , Next available works programme

40mm

Redcar and Cleveland

No data

No data

Renfrewshire

2 hours , 1 day , 5 days , 6 months , Future works

45mm

Rhondda

2 hours , 28 days

30mm

Richmond upon Thames

2 hours/same day , Next day , 7 days , 7 days , 28 days

25mm

Rochdale

1 hour , 24 hours , 20 days

35mm

Rotherham

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 3 months

40mm, 250mm wide

Rutland

2 hours (make safe) , Within 7 days , Within 7 days

40mm

Salford

2 hours , 24 hours , 28 days

40mm

Sandwell

2 hours , 5 days

40mm

Scottish Borders

24 hours , 7 days , 4 weeks , Planned works

40mm

Sefton

2 hours , 24 hours , 28 days

40mm

Sheffield

1 hour , 24 hours

40mm

Shetland Islands

24 hours , 5 days , 30 days , Monitor and review

50mm

Shropshire

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Programmed works

20mm

Slough

1 hour , 2 hours , 28 days

50mm

Solihull

2 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Future works programme

Risk based

Somerset

1.5 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days

40mm, 150mm wide

South Ayrshire

No data

No data

South Gloucestershire

24 hours , 14 days , 12 weeks , Next available programme

30mm, 300m wide all round

South Lanarkshire

immediate/4 hours , 7 days

25mm

South Tyneside

2 hours , 24 hours , 10 days

40mm

Southampton

24 hours , 6 months

40mm

Southend-on-Sea

2 hours , 24 hours

40mm

Southwark

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days

40mm, 100mm x 100mm

St. Helens

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 day , 21 day , 56 day/programmed works

40mm

Staffordshire

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Next available programme

40mm

Stirling

12 hours , 20 days

20mm

Stockport

Emergency: 2 hours , Urgent: 72 hours , Town centre and pedestrianised areas: 12 day , main route: 28 days , Estate/minor: 56 days

40mm, 300mm wide

Stockton-on-Tees

2 hours , 24 hours , 10 days , 28 days , next available programme

Risk based

Stoke-on-Trent

1 hours , Next working day , 10 days

20mm

Suffolk

2 hours , 2 days , 5 days , 10 days , 20 days , 14 weeks

25mm, 400mm wide

Sunderland

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 6 months/planned works

40mm

Surrey

2 hours , 5 days , 20 days or next work programme

40mm

Sutton

2 hours , 24 hours , 8 days , 25 days

40mm

Swansea

24 hours , 20 days , 20 days , None

50mm, 250mm wide

Swindon

1 hour , 24 hours , 6 weeks

31mm

Tameside

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days or 28 days

30mm

Telford and Wrekin

No data

No data

TfL

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , No response required

20mm, 100sqcm

The Vale of Glamorgan

Next working day , Monitor/works programme

40mm

Thurrock

2 hours , 5 days (potholes: 72 hours) , Monitor/90 days , Next planned works

50mm, 75mm wide

Torbay

No data

No data

Torfaen

24 hours , 28 days

40mm

Tower Hamlets

2 hours , 24 hours , 5 days , 28 days

40mm

Trafford

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 day , 28 days , No immediate action

40mm, 300mm wide

Wakefield

24 hours , 7 day , 28 days , Monitor

50mm

Walsall

1 hour , 24 hour , 5 days , 6 months - programmed works

50mm

Waltham Forest

1.5 hours , 24 hours , 6 weeks , monitor/planned works

40mm

Wandsworth

No data

No data

Warrington

PO & P1: 2 hours , P2: 24 hours , P3: 5 days , P4: 14 days , P5: 28 days , P6: next available programme

40mm

Warwickshire

1 hour , 24 hours , 28 days

50mm

West Berkshire

2 hours , 24 hours , 28 days , Review/programmed works

50mm, 300mm wide

West Dunbartonshire

No data

No data

West Lothian

24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Next available programme

40mm, 300mm wide

West Sussex

2 hours , 5 days , 28 days

40mm

Westminster

2 hours , 24 hours , 7/10 days , 28 days

20mm

Wigan

2 hours , 24 hours , 5 day , 10 day

40mm

Wiltshire

24 hours , Temp 23 hours, Perm 28 days , 7 days , 1 month , 3 months , Referred to Local Roads Manager , Do not meet intervention level but may do in the future

40mm, 250mm wide

Windsor and Maidenhead

3 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 14 days , 28 days

40mm, 150mm wide

Wirral

1 hour to 24 days

40mm, 300mm wide

Wokingham

2 hours , 24 hours , 7 days , 14 days , 28 days , Works to be programmed

Risk based

Wolverhampton

2 hours , 24 hours/next working day , 30 days , 90 days , 180 days

25mm

Worcestershire

1 hour , 24 hours , 7 days , 28 days , Monitor

25mm

Wrexham

2-24 hours , 90 days or prior to next inspection , Planned works

50mm

York

34 hours , 3 days , 20 days

40mm

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