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Council redefines "potholes" to save £120,000

Cash-strapped Perth and Kinross Council are considering waiting until potholes are 60mm deep before repairing

A council is considering changing the definition of a pothole to a 60mm (almost 2.5 inch) depth in order to save money on repairs.

In a document identifying potential savings in the face of budget cuts Perth and Kinross Council in Scotland last month proposed redefining the term “pothole” from the current 40mm to save approximately £120,000 in annual repairs, along with reduced investment across its services.

However, CTC says the move could prove a false economy as claims due to injuries caused by pothole collisions can run into six figures, with the potential for fatal injury to cyclists if road surfaces are allowed to deteriorate.

Cyclist dies after hitting seven year old pothole

Sam Jones, Campaigns Coordinator at CTC said: “Potholes have long been the scourge of our roads – which is why as the national cycling charity, CTC created the Fill that Hole app to report them. Potholes and other road defects aren’t just mere inconveniences for cyclists but can also lead to serious injury and even death.

“Perth and Kinross Council’s proposals to change their pot hole intervention criteria under justifications of £120,000 savings is likely to be a false economy, as road users’ claims increase. Money paid out in the costly settlements would be far better dedicated towards preventing the problem in the first place - this would save not just money but lives.”

In a document outlining possible savings the council identifies a number of roads maintenance services on which savings can be made. It suggests: “Increase the intervention level for defect repairs e.g. from 40mm in road to 60mm and thus reduce the level of reactive repairs carried out. This will require a change in the current policy.”

The council notes this could pose increased risk to those with visual impairments and mobility issues and could cause “accelerated deterioration of road network surface requiring higher cost/premature capital investment.” It does not mention a risk to cyclists arising from the changes.

An RAC spokesperson told the Telegraph the larger a pothole becomes the greater the risk it poses to road users and the more costly it is to repair.

In 2011 Martyn Uzzell was killed after cycling over a pothole in North Yorkshire during a Lands End to John O’Groats attempt. He was thrown into the path of a car, and Yorkshire County Council reportedly payed a 6-figure sum in compensation. A coroner said there was “no doubt” the defect was to blame for his death. 

Jones says local roads and streets need to be prioritised as these are routes most used by pedestrians and cyclists, for whom injury from poorly-maintained road surfaces can have the most serious consequences. He says planned road maintenance is a cost-efficient time to introduce cycle infrastructure.

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13 comments

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balmybaldwin | 7 years ago
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60mm is 150% of the depth of my car tyres and the sort of terrain that only a mountainbike with suspension can negotiate without danger of pinch punctures and more.

 

To actually let this into the press seems like an invitation to a lawyer in a future damages case to show systematic gross negligence by the council which would attract the attention of the HSE

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darrylxxx | 7 years ago
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Ridiculous move by Perth and Kinross Council.

Strava should record vibration on activities and then pool the data to see where the bumpiest roads and worst potholes are and send it to councils...

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davidgray968 | 7 years ago
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They have assessed the risk that it is cheaper to redefine and therefore delay repair of a pothole against the cost of a valid claim which, as eluded to here, is either time consuming to complete in the first place or even longer to win in the second, so may not be paid in the end anyway. Plus one is a direct cost to the council highways budget and the other is a cost to the council insurance or whatever covers valid claims but is challengable whereas the other is not. 

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Gkam84 | 7 years ago
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Someone from the CTC needs to read through it again, then comment...

"However, CTC says the move could prove a false economy as claims due to injuries caused by pothole collisions can run into six figures"

That may be the case as we sit right now, but current claims would not go through under the redefination of "pothole" as anything under 60mm would not make a valid claim, therefore saving the council alot of money in paying compensation for pothole damage as they should be able to repair potholes before they get to their new 60mm limit

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hawkinspeter replied to Gkam84 | 7 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

Someone from the CTC needs to read through it again, then comment...

"However, CTC says the move could prove a false economy as claims due to injuries caused by pothole collisions can run into six figures"

That may be the case as we sit right now, but current claims would not go through under the redefination of "pothole" as anything under 60mm would not make a valid claim, therefore saving the council alot of money in paying compensation for pothole damage as they should be able to repair potholes before they get to their new 60mm limit

I don't know how those claims are usually processed, but are they specifically about "potholes" or are they a more general claim about the road being in unsafe repair?

Having an accident can provide direct proof that the road is unsafe, but typically the council has to have been notified about it (they can't be expected to repair a defect that has only just occurred) and given a reasonable time (3 days?) in which to return it to a safe condition.

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maldin replied to hawkinspeter | 7 years ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:
Gkam84 wrote:

Someone from the CTC needs to read through it again, then comment...

"However, CTC says the move could prove a false economy as claims due to injuries caused by pothole collisions can run into six figures"

That may be the case as we sit right now, but current claims would not go through under the redefination of "pothole" as anything under 60mm would not make a valid claim, therefore saving the council alot of money in paying compensation for pothole damage as they should be able to repair potholes before they get to their new 60mm limit

I don't know how those claims are usually processed, but are they specifically about "potholes" or are they a more general claim about the road being in unsafe repair?

Having an accident can provide direct proof that the road is unsafe, but typically the council has to have been notified about it (they can't be expected to repair a defect that has only just occurred) and given a reasonable time (3 days?) in which to return it to a safe condition.

Where is the incentive for the council to check it's roads for defects? If they don't know about a defect they don't have to pay compensation, if they do know about it but haven't fixed it then they must pay compensation. So, logically they won't do routine inspections of their roads but rather wait for complaints to come in, deny compensation and then fix the hole. Who came up with that bizarre rule? Let me guess - the councils? It's like a bus or airline company only needing to pay compensation to passengers if it's bus/plane crashes due to poor maintenance if the fault had already been reported before the accident-sounds stupid right?

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gthornton101 | 7 years ago
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Unbelievable.  Even 40mm depth is a sizeable hole and they want to increase that by 50% to 60mm!

I hit one pothole a while back and claimed (damaged rim and broken spoke) to Surrey CC through the proper paperwork.  It took months to receive a reply which simply stated that allegedly they had been notified the day before I hit it and it was within their self-regulated 3 working days to take action on it so I wouldn't be compensated.

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STiG911 | 7 years ago
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Brilliant - ''We simply can't afford to repair all these potholes - tell you what, let's just re-define what a potholes is'

Well it's not like anyone's been killed by one recently, is it? Oh, hang on...

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jthef | 7 years ago
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there are a few potholes  I come across and report via fill that hole and when you look on Lancashire CC web site  they put the fault is not bad enough to fix. So I report again with a more detailed risk definition and this some times works.  One is that bad I wont cycle near it  as road failing for 50m in the secondary position. Over the years I have broke/ bent 5 or 6 (probably more though) wheels and claimed twice for 3 wheels which I have been paid out for. I have had the repair done and enclosed the recipt when claiming.

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Stef Marazzi | 7 years ago
3 likes

Reminds me of the Ford Pinto Case where some idiot at Ford worked out it was cheaper to let people burn alive than modify the safety of the cars for $11 a car.

He was wrong.

They got sucessfully sued for hundreds of Millions.

http://auto.howstuffworks.com/1971-1980-ford-pinto12.htm

 

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Allezbike | 7 years ago
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Horrified keen cyclist of perth. This area may not have the worst roads around but there are still some whoppers of road defects out there. I agree with the CTC spokesperson that this is a false economy. This report only makes me more determined to document report and oversee any defects in the future so no zealous council employee can justify the death or serious injury by referring to council policy

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brooksby | 7 years ago
4 likes

Why stop here? Why don't councils say it's only a pothole if actual potholers have been seen climbing in it? Or, if you can see China? Ridiculous!

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PaulBox | 7 years ago
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W@nkers... 

I cracked two alloys on my car last year, wasn't picked up until MOT time and couldn't identify where it had happened and therefore make a claim. When I tried claiming against Bucks CC for a snapped spoke after hitting a pothole in Denham, the form they sent me to complete was so long that I just couldn't bring myself to complete it.

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