PFM 21 4 - Page 20

cover story
Pothole Repairs Without the Pitfalls
The economics of road surface maintenance have left roads and car parks crumbling, but
pothole repair specialists RENOO argues that the infrared repair technology is making small
permanent repairs cheaper, simpler and more convenient for property owners and
ollowing the icy assault of the
‘Beast from the East’, which
swept across the UK this
winter, the discovery of 2 million
new potholes has prompted the
government to release £100m in
additional funding to assist in
repairs to help stave off a growing
threat to road users and the
resulting liabilities. A threat made all
the more apparent by a recent RAC
report, which highlighted that Q1
2018 was one of the worst quarters
on record for pothole damage. The
number of “breakdowns likely to be
attributed to damage caused by
potholes and poor quality road
surfaces” was seen to have doubled
with an increase in “damaged shock
absorbers, broken suspension
springs or distorted wheels”.
The same problems also have a
human cost: In 2017/18, £7.3m was
successfully claimed by individuals
against councils in England and Wales
for road defects and 82% of this was a
result of potholes.
While this was a particularly severe
winter, the degree of damage to road
surfaces only compounded an existing
issue caused by the ongoing under
investment in road maintenance across
the nation. Indeed, the Asphalt Industry
Alliance’s Annual Local Authority Road
Maintenance Survey, warned that a
decade of neglect to the UK’s road
network caused through annual
shortfalls in maintenance budgets had
racked up a liability of around £9.3bn.
While such spasmodic cycles of
underinvestment, followed by bursts of
emergency spending, are all too
familiar when we look at government
spending, the truth is that many private
organisations also take a similar
approach to maintaining the road
surfaces in their own (literal)
backyards. Across the UK, the harsh
winter conditions have been equally
taxing on car parks and private roads –
and have equally revealed the risks of
lax maintenance.
For property owners and facilities
managers, the risks of injury claims
should be the most pressing concern
as the past decade has seen an
increase in litigation and trips and falls
have been the source of some of the
largest compensation awards. The
exposure to risk is fairly unambiguous
as organisations have a Duty of Care
to keep staff, visitors and passers by
safe while on their premises. At the
other end of the scale, but also
important, the crumbling state of car
parks and roads can reflect badly on
owners and tenants and can detract
from a properties kerb-appeal and
overall value.
Why it’s been hard for organisations
to maintain good quality surfaces
Neglect from private landlords can
seem short-sighted especially as,
unlike in the public sector where
political considerations can influence
spending choices, pragmatism usually
comes first in business. However, that
same pragmatism is the main reason
why damaged road surfaces can be left
to gradually worsen to the point where
potholes become a significant issue as
the prevalent economics of maintaining
tarmac incentivise less frequent
Let’s quickly look at how potholes form.
When water penetrates a road surface
and freezes it expands and pushes out
a cavity beneath the surface. As the ice
thaws, this cavity then caves in to
create a pothole. Water can penetrate
via even the tiniest cracks in a surface
and can thus become a recurring
nuisance as repaired surfaces often
repeatedly fail in the same areas as the
over-banded bitumen becomes a point
of weakness and then failure. For this
reason, repeatedly patching a surface
can seem a thankless task. Filling a
pothole with gravel or simply laying a
fresh topping of tarmac will not deal
with the structural issues that are
undermining the strength of the road so
that within months, sometimes weeks,


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