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Pothole repairs without


the pitfalls


The economics of road surface maintenance have left roads and car parks crumbling, but pothole repair specialists RENOO argues that the infrared repair technology is making small permanent repairs cheaper, simpler and more convenient for property owners and managers.


Following the icy assault of the ‘Beast from the East’, which swept across the UK at the start of this year, the discovery of 2 million new potholes prompted the government to release £100m in additional funding to assist in repairs to help stave off a growing threat to road users and the resulting liabilities. A threat made all the more apparent by a RAC report, which highlighted that Q1 2018 was one of the worst quarters on record for pothole damage. The number of “breakdowns likely to be attributed to damage caused by potholes and poor quality road surfaces” was seen to have doubled with an increase in “damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs or distorted wheels”. The same problems also have a human


cost: In 2017/18, £7.3m was successfully claimed by individuals against councils in England and Wales for road defects and 82% of this was a result of potholes. While this was a particularly severe


winter, the degree of damage to road surfaces only compounded an existing issue caused by the ongoing under investment in road maintenance across the nation. Indeed, the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey, warned that a decade of neglect to the UK’s road network caused through annual shortfalls


38 fmuk


in maintenance budgets had racked up a liability of around £9.3bn. While such spasmodic cycles of


underinvestment, followed by bursts of emergency spending, are all too familiar when we look at government spending, the truth is that many private organisations also take a similar approach to maintaining the road surfaces in their own (literal) backyards. Across the UK, the harsh winter conditions have been equally taxing on car parks and private roads – and have equally revealed the risks of lax maintenance. For property owners and facilities managers, the risks of injury claims should be the most pressing concern as the past decade has seen an increase in litigation and trips and falls have been the source of some of the largest compensation awards. The exposure to risk is fairly unambiguous as organisations have a Duty of Care to keep staff, visitors and passers by safe while on their premises. At the other end of the scale, but also important, the crumbling state of car parks and roads can reflect badly on owners and tenants and can detract from a properties ‘kerb-appeal’ and overall value.


Why it’s been hard for organisations to maintain good quality surfaces Neglect from private landlords can seem


short-sighted especially as, unlike in the public sector where political considerations can influence spending choices, pragmatism usually comes first in business. However, that same pragmatism is the main reason why damaged road surfaces can be left to gradually worsen to the point where potholes become a significant issue as the prevalent economics of maintaining tarmac incentivise less frequent repairs. Let’s quickly look at how potholes form.


When water penetrates a road surface and freezes it expands and pushes out a cavity beneath the surface. As the ice thaws, this cavity then caves in to create a pothole. Water can penetrate via even the tiniest cracks in a surface and can thus become a recurring nuisance as repaired surfaces often repeatedly fail in the same areas as the over-banded bitumen becomes a point of weakness and then failure. For this reason, repeatedly patching a surface can seem a thankless task. Filling a pothole with gravel or simply laying a fresh topping of tarmac will not deal with the structural issues that are undermining the strength of the road so that within months, sometimes weeks, potholes carry on appearing across the surface. Small repairs can also be disproportionately disruptive, particularly in high traffic areas.


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