Potholes and broken pavements

What is a Pothole?

When the surface of a road ages, it becomes more porous, which allows rainwater to soak in more easily through cracks and other flaws.

In wet conditions, the pressure produced by car tyres passing over the area forces more water down into the road surface, which weakens it even further. When the weather is cold and wet, water that has entered into the ground freezes and expands, loosening chunks of the surface material of and causing faster deterioration of the road. Once a pothole has formed, it will get bigger the more traffic passes over it, as cars driving over the potholes will continue to weaken and dislodge broken pieces of the road surface.

When the surface of a road has weakened over a larger area, potholes are more likely to reoccur. In most of these cases, the entire road surface will need to be repaired or completely replaced under our Highway road surfacing programme.


What can go wrong with pavements?

A lot of pavements are made up of slabs. If left alone, they can last for a long time however, often they are cracked and broken by vehicles driving over them, or by building operations. Also, the ground below the slabs can shift ( e.g. from tree roots) , which means the edges of slabs so longer match up, and a “trip” can be formed. Asphalt pavements will deteriorate over many years and potholes can form , just as they do on the roads.


How long does it take to get the defect repaired?

Safety is always our highest priority. When reported, defects are normally inspected with 10 days for something reported as non-urgent.

To be considered for repair, defects must reach a certain level which is 20mm for a pavement trip and 30mm for a road pothole (20mm within 1.5 m of the kerb).
When defects reach these levels, each defect is then prioritised:

  • Emergency defects are made safe between 2 – 24 hours after inspection. These repairs may be temporary to make the road safe, with permanent repairs being scheduled in for a later date.
  • Other high priority defects are repaired within 7 days
  • Medium priority defects are repaired within 28 days of them being ordered.
  • Larger or more complex works, such as major resurfacing of roads or pavements, are generally scheduled separately and will differ in timescales.

Sometimes we are unable to carry out immediate repairs due to other hazards or long term flooding. If this is the case, we may use temporary signs and barriers to divert vehicles around the defect.

Defect prioritisation depends not only on how bad the defect is (depth of pothole, height of trip) but also on the location of the defect. So, a trip which only just reaches the 20mm investigation level and is out of the way (e.g. on a back street, right at the back of the pavement where no-one is likely to trip over it) is likely to be a low priority defect. The same trip located towards the middle of the pavement on a school route could be a medium priority defect, or a high priority defect if it was right outside a busy tube station or shopping centre.

The photos below are therefore given as guidance only:

Road Pothole Priority

Pavement Trip Priority