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Pothole update – some of your questions answered

Published: 14 March 2024

We’ve recently published 2 open letters on potholes, one in January 2024 and one in February 2024. We’ve had lots of comments and questions back so here are the answers to the most common questions we’ve had.

Why haven’t you fixed the potholes near me?

If they’re actionable and we know about them, we will get there as soon as we can. 

We prioritise repairs on safety risk. So, we will aim to fix large potholes on main and higher speed roads as a priority as quickly as possible.

We then try to schedule potholes based on the size/risk of the pothole (like speed of the road, lit or unlit) and on a team staying in one location where possible to keep travel time to a minimum. 

If a site is on our wider repairs or resurfacing schedule, we might try to bring this forward if we can or do temporary repairs so we don’t have to duplicate work.

We want to get to every actionable pothole as fast as we can but it’s sometimes challenging because they all occur at the same time. But, we’ll get to the one causing you concern on your journey or outside your home as soon as we can.

Why don’t some repairs last?

We know this is the biggest frustration, and we share it. We definitely don’t want to get to know a street on first name terms. 

It can be the weather, materials or the surrounding road condition which means repairs don’t last. Particularly when it’s wet or freezes, this can mean repairs don’t last as long. 

Sometimes we have to do temporary repairs for safety too. Or because we’re coming back to do permanent works soon (we’ll try to put signs up to let you know this where we can). 

So, we do want to do one-and-done lasting fixes or resurfacing where we can, and we’ll keep trying to improve this, but hopefully this explains why it isn’t always possible. 

Cost effectiveness wise, it costs less than £60 for a pothole repair, in comparison to tens of thousands to resurface a section of road. One recent example of this is the works on Bolsover Market Place, temporary safety repairs cost less than a few hundred pounds, and the permanent resurfacing works we’ve just done cost more than £50,000.

It also takes time to design and plan in permanent resurfacing works, with the need to organise things like surveys, traffic management and checks to see which utilities equipment might be below the surface.  

What are the different ways we use to fix potholes?

There are 2 main ways to fill potholes: 

  1. Just filling the pothole with material and compacting it down. This is carried out where it is not possible to carry out a more substantial repair and often using cold material. 
  2. Cutting out the area around the pothole, removing all loose material, applying a bond coat (to stick the new material to the surface below), filling the hole then compacting it and sealing it around the edges. Sometimes however the adjacent road is in poor condition which means it is not possible to cut to a square edge.

We know residents don’t like the first method as these are often more temporary, but these are usually a small percentage of pothole repairs with the rest being patch repairs. 

As the weather improves (hopefully!), we’ll be using specialist machines called Jetpatchers too. These can be used especially on rural roads to spray fill potholes and edges of road deterioration. We used them last year on lots of sites.

There’s then bigger permanent repairs of sectional or full road resurfacing. We’re accelerating this as far as we can - with 4 teams focusing on resurfacing pothole hotspots as well as our planned works. We want to focus on this, and we know it’s what you prefer, but with planning and budgets sadly it’s not possible to resurface everywhere at once. 

Why have you resurfaced one road but not another?

We know residents get frustrated when they see one road being worked on over others. 

We do visual assessments but also use a machine called a Scrim to test out the skid resistance on roads too when putting together our resurfacing programme.

But sometimes we do works on roads which might not always look like they need work as intervening now with a smaller and less expensive treatment means we can protect and prolong the life of that road or pavement and so cover more places too. Surface dressing (those chippings…!) and micro-asphalting/slurry sealing (liquid spraying…) are examples of this.  

We are listening though to the frustrations, which is why we’re currently working through our 250 sites ‘pothole hotspots’ extra resurfacing programme of sites which were having repeated pothole visits and causing concern across the county.

Why don’t you use better materials for pothole repairs?

We always want to use the best materials and equipment we can. The materials and chemicals used today and in recent years have changed from previous decades due to concerns over the effects of the chemicals previously used on health and the environment. One example is coal tar isn’t used anymore because it’s pretty nasty stuff for operators and for the planet. 

We’re looking into what new materials and technology we can use though. We’re also doing some trials and tests of new options on the market as we need to make sure they work and are right for the different parts of the county.

Derbyshire is one of the only county councils to have its own laboratory so we can fully test things out and check on the quality of repairs and works done. We’ll provide more updates on this. 

Where does the fuel duty and vehicle tax money I pay go?  

This money goes straight to central government and doesn’t come to us for road repairs. 

Maintaining our highways is funded by an annual grant from the government, which is currently set at around £27 million per year. As well as road and pavement resurfacing this has to cover our bridges, structures and retaining walls which hold up our roads, as well as road safety improvements - and fixing landslips… In terms of some big stats, we cover 3,500 miles of road, 1,000km of retaining walls and are dealing with more than 200 landslips currently.

We’ve been highlighting the issues we’re facing in Derbyshire to the government at every level - and we’ll continue to do this to push for more funding.

At a local level, we’re also putting extra funding into our highway service this year - with at least an extra £6 million planned. 

Why have you fixed some potholes in an area but not others?

We do try to do all actionable potholes in an area where we can and we try to minimise and avoid travel time in a day wherever possible. 

Sometimes though we might not do all repairs in an area at once for reasons such as: 

  • a team might have to move to another location to do an urgent repair or other job
  • traffic management might be needed if some of the potholes are in a busy or difficult location so we can do the repairs safely
  • bigger resurfacing or patching works might be planned on the road, so we might just be making it safe. We’ll try to put signs up to advise of this where we can. A team will come back as soon as they can though

Why are there lots of potholes at the moment? 

This may be stating the obvious as we know residents sadly know this, but this has been one of the worst winters for potholes and road damage in decades. The most recent comparable was 2019. As then, this is in part because of the continuous very wet conditions and flood damage. 

Over the last 6 months, we’ve had at least 2 lots of snow in parts of the county, 10 named storms including October’s Storm Babet and double or treble the usual monthly rainfall for several months. This continuous water and then freeze is one of the main causes of potholes and highway damage. 

Bad weather also means repairs we do might not last as long, but we sometimes still have to carry out temporary repairs on safety grounds. 

We’re also seeing more highways impact from increasing utility and roadworks, as well as more vehicles and HGVs. This isn’t a criticism of any road user, just an acknowledgement that if you use something more, it will wear more. 

Grant funding has remained the same for many years despite these challenges (and this really is an issue that’s decades in the making), so we’re making the case to government for additional investment. 

Why haven’t I seen a pothole repair team?

We’ve got up to 25 2-person ‘reactive’ teams out each day. Sometimes it’s not the full 25 out as some have to be on call out of hours for urgent issues such as collision clean ups. And, at this time of year, some of the teams are also helping with gritting and snow ploughing when needed. 

We’ve got as many teams out as possible 7 days a week though and, if there’s an urgent issue, in the evenings. 

In total since the start of the year we’ve been filling more than 2,000 potholes a week and we’ve done bigger section resurfacing repairs on more than 100 hotspot sites - with many more underway and planned. Hopefully you’re starting to see these near you as we’re working across the county. 

Why aren’t you inspecting the roads?

We do have specific highways inspectors out every day, and every adopted road in Derbyshire (over 3,500 miles) is on either a monthly, quarterly or annual inspection depending on how main a route it is. In between this, our inspectors respond to and attend sites where they’ve had specific enquiries or concerns raised. 

The majority of pothole reports and jobs come from our inspectors (over two-thirds), but if there are potholes near you or on your journey you’re concerned about, you can report them too. 

We’ve also got specific inspectors focused on utility and development reinstatement works - those popular utility trenches down the middle of roads… where these haven’t been done by companies to high quality we can raise notices to get them to put these right.