GOING TO POT
ON THE ROAD WITH THE TEAM FIGHTING OUR POTHOLE PROBLEM
A dedicated team works in all weathers, 24/7, 365 days a year, to keep Buckinghamshire’s road system running smoothly.
CAMILLA GOODMAN went out with a team of highway maintenance operatives to find out more about how our roads are looked after
AS I pulled into The Grove in Chesham Bois to meet the team of three it was not hard to miss the crater, sorry I mean pothole, that proudly sat in the road eagerly waiting to cause damage to any motorist who dared to drive through it.
However, luckily for us, the pothole was not given much of a chance to cause misery to motorists thanks to the team, made-up of Kalin Dawe, Christoper James and Simon Revel, who were on hand to fix it within 24 hours of it being reported.
The monstrous pothole, which I thought was shaped a bit like a bell, is what Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) classes as a category one, the most serious type of pothole which, once reported, must be fixed within 24 hours.
A category one pothole is one that extends over 300mm in any one direction, is more than 40mm deep and has jagged edges, exactly like the one in The Grove.
A category two pothole, which is smaller in size, must be repaired within 28 days of it being reported, either by the public or by TfB’s inspection team.
The pothole in The Grove was reported by the inspection team.
Luckily, because the pothole was in a residential road, the team of three did not need to sort out traffic management or put traffic lights in place like they would if it was on a busier road,saynearbyAmersham Road, and so they could get straight to work.
Because the road was not scheduled for resurfacing and the weather was on our side, it meant the team could carry out a proper and permanent repair as opposed to a make-safe repair, which just involves filling the pothole in.
Unless the road is being resurfaced, a make-safe repair must become a permanent repair within 28 days of the initial repair.
The permanent repair started with the team clearing the pothole of leaves and other debris. They then used a piece of machinery to cut into the road around the pothole making a large rectangle.
The team then spread a binding substance to act as an adhesive before the hot tarmacta a was placed into the hole,hoh with the team knowingkn exactly how much h waswa required. They then n usedus a wacker plate, which h remindedr me of a lawn n mower, to compress the e tarmac,ta and just like magicc theth pothole vanished and a niceni new piece of tarmac c stoodsto in its place. From m startsta to finish this took thee teamte about 30 minutes too complete,co and residentss werewe delighted with the e resultsre with many of those e whowh walked past thanking g theth team.
It really was a mesmerisingm process too watchwa and I felt a sense of satisfactionsa with the endd result,re which I imagine thee teamte must feel with every job.jo
I was not the only one whowh was satisfied. Also watchingwa the process was BucksBu County Council’s cabinetca member for transporttra Mark Shaw and communicationsco manager forfo TfB Rosemary Bryant.
Chesham County CouncillorCo Mr Shaw said: “I’m“I’ absolutely delighted withwi them. They do an immenseim job at keeping theth roads going in Bucks andan without them we’d be in a real mess. The energy andan commitment they give is second to none”
The team then shot off to theirth next job in Bois Road. In an average day, the team,te based at the AmershamAm depot, said they repairre about 15 to 16 potholes a day, but in the colder months it can be as many as 20.
In total, across the county, an amazing 2,000 potholes are repaired each month.
A pothole is where the surface of the road has been eroded and a hollow has formed. After a cold spell, the roads will be in a worse state as potholes are created in four steps: As roads age they become more porous, having been worn down by traffic. This allows rainwater to seep into the surface. Cold winter weather freezes this water, turning it to ice and therefore expanding and pushing the tarmac up and out. Gaps are created in the tarmac when the ice thaws and turns back into water. These gaps get bigger with each ‘freezethaw’ cycle which weakens the road.
The gaps then cave in when traffic travels over the road, causing a pothole.
Mr Shaw warned to expect more potholes over the winter.
He said: “The frost and the rain really kill us. The real challenge is when you have a wet winter with the water freezing, the potholes will come if you like it or not. Then the pressure is really on because you need to react to the most critical ones straight away but you also need to keep the other planned work going and flowing. ”
He also urged readers to help them keep the potholes at bay by reporting a pothole as soon as they clock one.
He said: “The quicker people report them, the quicker we can deal with them. Reporting it makes it safer for other road users quicker. People can call us to report a pothole or do it online, which is the simple and quick way to do it.”
TfB has an annual budget of £948,000 for reactive road repairs across the county.
However, the reactive work of responding to potholes, such as what I saw, is only a small part of what goes into keeping our roads running. There is also proactive work including planned resurfacing programmes, with about 300 roads in the county due to have been resurfaced this year alone.
TfB has come up with a four year plan for the resurfacing programme and a big part of that is deciding what order to do roads in, which Mr Shaw said people do not always agree with.
He added: “Take this road [The Grove] for example, people say it is in
The quicker people report them, the quicker we can deal with them. Reporting it makes it safer for other road users quicker
a poor conditiond andd needs dsd repairing, we understandnd that, but when you have a residential road with only ly about 20 people using it, you need to put things in order of who they serve, ve, and something like ke Amersham Road wouldld take priority.”
Ms Bryant added: “Some me people feel we’re repairingng the wrong roads. It’s likeke your windows at home, youou keep them painted andnd make sure they don’t rot, ot, it’s the same whenen choosing what roads to do,o, you don’t want them to fallall into a state of disrepair so it is about being proactiveve and keeping the conditionon good while we can.”
Between April this year ar and March 2016, TfB will have spent £25m on scheduled works, including White Hill, Cameron Road and Eskdale Avenue in Chesham.
The work identified to take place in 2015/16 forms part of a three year rolling programme with an additional £20m to be invested on the road network between April 2016 and March 2018.
Since 2011 in excess of £50m has been invested to improve, maintain, and prolong the life and condition of the county’s road network.
Roads chosen for treatment in 2015/16 are a combination of those chosenCountyCouncillors, under the guidance of Transport for Buckinghamshire, and those shown by road condition survey data to require priority treatment.
TfB’s road capital investment programme is in its fifth year after it was identified that substantial investment in Buckinghamshire’s roads was urgently required.
I moved to Bucks almost six years ago and I can safely say that I believe the roads in the county are in a far better condition than in 2010, so clearly this programme is working well.
Bucks County Council said it is receiving fewer complaints about the roads and we are also being contacted less frequently about the topic.
In addition this year, £1m of the £3m budget for patch and repair jobs has also been spent. A patch and repair job is where just part of the road, the worst part, is resurfaced, instead of the whole road, which saves money and time.
Mr Shaw added: “If there’s a 20 yard stretch in a bad state but the rest of the road is okay then this is when you’d use a patch and repair. It might not look as pretty because it’s not all new black tarmac, but it is a safe and secure way of repairing the road.”
Overall, TfB’s crews are doing a fantastic job and as Mr Shaw said, without them we really would be in a mess.
Maintaining our roads: X marks the spot of another pothole