Rethink call as council starts fixing potholes

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ENGINEERS are calling on council chiefs to reconsider how they repair potholes.

Potholes have reappeared all over south east Northumberland’s roads after the recent cold weather, causing considerable inconvenience for motorists.

Northumberland County Council workers are now getting to grips with the problem, but the Institution of Civil Engineers North East claims their current method of dealing with potholes is ineffective and a waste of money.

Stephen Larkin, regional director of the institution, said: “It will cost thousands of pounds across the north east to repair potholes in the roads caused by the big freeze.

“It’s yet more money when so much has already been spent on grit to keep roads clear, but if the repairs aren’t done, it could cost even more in future when the holes get bigger.

“When a pothole is simply patched up, there is a greater chance of the problem recurring than when a more thorough fixing of the damage is carried out.

“This is because a patch is more likely to allow water to seep in around the edges.”

Potholes are formed after water penetrates the asphalt surface through cracks caused by traffic.

When temperatures plunge, the water freezes, expands and causes the surface to crack. When the ice melts, it leaves a gap below the surface.

Mr Larkin added: “Snow and ice are the worst weather conditions for exacerbating existing road defects, due to the repetition of the freeze-thaw process.

“We need to act quickly under these conditions to avoid repeat problems and reduce the cost of having to fix the roads.

“Transport infrastructure is far too valuable to the north east economy to simply shrug our shoulders and say we can’t afford to be prepared.”

Officials at the county council say they will look at long-term repairs once weather conditions improve and they have a better idea how much funding is available.

Steve Bucknall, the council’s highways area manager for the south east, said: “After the severe winter weather, we have experienced so far, with extremely low temperatures over a prolonged period, we would expect potholes to appear in the road surface and for defects to appear on the pavements.

“To avoid injury and damage to pedestrians and vehicles, we do need to fix the defects temporarily as quickly as possible and will then hope to undertake more permanent repairs when conditions improve, dependent on resources.

“A priority system for identifying and repairing all potholes is in place, and any repairs are carried out within timescales determined by risk assessment, based on the type of road, the amount of traffic using that road and the nature and extent of the defect.

“We have not had a significant number of potholes reported over the winter period so far, but would expect to see a rise in the number of defects reported now that the snow and ice have melted.

“We are encouraging residents to contact us on 0845 600 6400 to report any problems as this will allow us to identify those areas which have significant problems.”