They create a sense of place that lets us know we’re not on the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Western Distributor...
IF the Ghosts of Governments Past had built country roads right in the first place, we too could be driving on billion-dollar ripple-free ribbons of asphalt resplendent with cross city tunnels and a great swanky sports arena (with a purpose built bike track) right alongside.
But because they didn’t, country road pot holes have been with us for decades and are now woven into the fabric of rural life; as Australian as emus, yabbies and police radar detectors.
Wanting good country roads that are safe to drive on is a threat to the very identity of those of us living in the bush.
Potholes are not to be lamented, despised or deemed politically incorrect.
They’re our northern star; guiding lights to the next roadside repair workshop and that, dear reader, gives back to regional economies. So, it’s true, the road to economic recovery is full of potholes!
You can hang your hat on a pothole – with your fillings and exhaust pipe – because they’re a sign, you’re home.
They create a sense of place that lets us know we’re not on the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Western Distributor.
Without potholes, how would we even know we’re in the country anymore?
Dropping kids to footy in a country town street, taking a back road from a mate’s place who lives a few k’s out, or even heading to the big smoke on a major highway are all just hollow, incomplete experiences if you can’t leave a little piece of your car on the front teeth of a pothole as you drive out of it before you realise you drove in.
On the upside, potholes offer wheel un-alignments and full suspension tests for free.
And what of the sleeping passenger?
Lulled by that uniquely rural muscle relaxant – ‘the long drive’ – where their neck folds backward and slack jaw opens their mouth into a crude frozen yawn, then – “Ka-bang!” – the wake-up call snaps them back to reality, with the crack of a gunshot but in fact it’s the undercarriage of a car underbelly smack-scraping a pothole unexpectedly at speed.
Would you like a side of whiplash with that?
Oh potholes, potholes, doth hath revealed poor workmanship on more than one occasion.
Like a lot of things which have been around for a long time, it’s easy to forget they weren’t always there, or, that they have a past.
Yes, they’re historically significant. Their name is from Scandinavia.
But that’s not important. So much under threat, is this species of historically significant road feature; there are “report a pothole” help lines in the UK and it’s only a matter of time before they arrive here too.
As if that’s not bad enough. Roads and Maritime Services put out a call just last week to “industry partners, innovators and developers to pitch their innovative solutions in road maintenance to help make a difference in the lives of people living, working and travelling on regional and rural NSW roads”.
They’re actually thinking it will take innovation to rid country roads of potholes, and it’s 2018.
So, here’s your chance. If you are an industry partner, innovator or developer with an innovative solution in road maintenance, the Executive Director of Regional and Freight, Roy Wakelin-king, wants to hear from you.
Roads and Maritime is accepting submissions for their “Innovation Network: Innovating regional road maintenance” and is encouraging those already innovating in the area of regional or rural road maintenance to apply.
I propose driving through and surviving a pothole is somewhat of an innovation which takes a certain amount of expertise which country drivers can easily claim.
Mr Wakelin-king has said: “We’re looking for submissions to address a number of core areas – such as inspections, surveying, safety, vegetation clearance and more – but most importantly, they must offer efficiency savings and more value for our customers.”
Sounds like they want to do it on the cheap. A bucket of asphalt tipped into a pothole’s pretty cheap... but that’s not innovative, it’s been done before.
There must be a way to build the road right in the first place?
Anyway, the ‘Top 10’ submissions will be invited to present their innovations to an expert panel comprising top industry thought-leaders, a well-known academic and inventor (how intriguing), and Roads and Maritime executives. Roads and Maritime will fund and support the trial and possible roll out of winning innovations.
So, what are you waiting for? Send your anti-pothole innovations to www.rms.nsw.gov.au/ business-industry/innovation-network-initiative.html today and if you when, tell Roy, we sent you. ■