Pothole season is nearly once against with us. The time of year when roads that seemed perfectly passable a month or two prior, suddenly seem to resemble rutted farm tracks or abandoned air fields, unfit for anything other than large 4×4’s or tractors.
If you are glued to social media you probably won’t have escaped the humourous (unintentional) post of one council highways departments last winter when one of their employees was pictured, seemingly inaccurately measuring the depth of what seemed like a pretty bad pothole? Whilst the many ‘spoof’ posts that followed certainly raised a laugh or two amongst the motoring fraternity, it wouldn’t have been a laughing matter for anybody who happend to have their car damaged from that, or any other pothole that seemed to blight the U.K roads a year ago.
But why are the roads in the U.K seemingly so bad at the same time every year, and what is being done about it? The answer to this question is largely twofold, and very, very complicated.
The roads in the U.K do seem to be worse than many of our neighbours in Europe, if you believe all that you read on social media. Or perhaps, the Brits are just better at complaining? But, in truth, road surfaces do differ slightly between some European countries because of the climate and environment in which the roads exist. In the U.K, we have a largely, and we think it’s fair to say, ‘wet’ climate, and road surfaces are designed to ensure that they are as safe as they can be. Environmental factors like sound deadening also dictate the type of surfaces used. But this means that some surfaces degrade quicker than others. A road surface that is designed to repel water or stop aqua-planing probably won’t so well in extreme heat and full sunshine. And as we know, our climate in the U.K in the last 12 months alone has bounced from sub zero temperatures and ‘the Beast from the East’ to temperatures well into the mid 30’s, in the space of 4 or 5 months.
The 2nd point to note is funding. With austerity, roads that have their upkeep and responsibility met by local councils, an environment has been created whereby valuable budgets managed by local councils have to be finely balanced between necessary repairs, and urgent repairs, and thus why councils often measure potholes before deciding on whether or not to fill them in.
But, whilst last winters social media picture suggest a rather amatuer way at measuring a hole in a road, technology does play a part in the repair of our roads over winter. Some councils use GPS technology and photography to record the before and after repairs. Perhaps the data is also analysed to determine if a full resurfacing or bigger repair is needed in the future when several reports of ongoing repairs occur in a short time on the same road.
With salt, and then snow and ice, more rain and even the occasional sunny day expected over a typical British Winter, it’s probably fair to say that we need to expect potholes starting to reappear in the coming months.