The Transport Talk column with Don Mackenzie

Proper repair of a pothole includes cutting to a sharp edge, filling and mechanically compacting.
Proper repair of a pothole includes cutting to a sharp edge, filling and mechanically compacting.

My subject this month is highways maintenance and especially potholes, an issue raised in recent articles and letters published in this newspaper, and elsewhere on social media.

It is worth reminding ourselves that the condition of our roads is at its worst at this time of the year.

Several months of wintry weather have had a damaging effect on highways surfaces, as has the county’s gritting of roads most nights since the start of November.

For all the time this deterioration has been going on, no scheduled maintenance work has taken place during winter months apart from emergency filling of potholes for safety reasons.

The damage is there for us all to see. Our annual programme of maintenance and repair work will re-start next month when we can make inroads into the damage.

The 2018 schedule of works includes again hundreds of roads which will be patched and dressed and others which will be planed off and completely resurfaced.

Included in the latter category in Harrogate are Dragon Road, Skipton Road and West Park.

We need to accept that there will never be a time when every pothole in the county’s 6,000 miles of roads and 3.000 miles of footpaths has been fixed.

It has been suggested that the cost to restore all our roads to perfect condition would be about £400million.

NYCC’s annual budget for all highways-related work is about £35million.

Full resurfacing does not come cheap – Hookstone Chase, less than half a mile long, was resurfaced in the last two years at a cost of over £500,000.

That is why NYCC carries out road repairs on the basis of prioritisation.

As far as potholes are concerned, the County’s adopted policy, set out in the Highway Safety Inspection Manual (HSIM), lays down several assessment criteria which need to be met before a pothole is repaired.

A basic requirement is a minimum depth of 40mm (about 1.5”).

The HSIM is a publicly available document to be found at www.northyorks.gov.uk/HSIM

Reporting of all highways defects, including problems with streetlights, can be done all day every day via the NYCC website. By simply creating an account the resident is kept informed of progress.

Here is the link: https://www.northyorks.gov.uk/report-online

Safety of the highway always comes ahead of aesthetic appearance.

The overall condition of our roads is reported regularly to elected members not least because the state of our highways is important to our residents.

The latest update to councillors this month includes a bar chart showing percentages of three categories of roads (principal, heavily trafficked, less trafficked) in need of repair.

Since 2011, the condition of our principal and heavily trafficked roads has improved with under 5% in need of repair.

On the other hand, that of our less trafficked routes, including rural and residential estate roads, declined sharply up to 2015, since when increased investment has reversed the decline with the result that now 16% of those roads are in need of repair, compared with 25% in 2015. Public satisfaction has now risen after sharp declines up to 2014.

Many of the complaints from Harrogate residents are about residential estate roads, built at a time when traffic was a tiny fraction of what it is now, and to a standard well below that required for the number of vehicles using them today.

Many of these streets were patched and surface-dressed last year, and many more will be treated this year. The work between March and October goes on year after year.

Recent letters have questioned why Beckwith Road has not been resurfaced as promised. Funding is in place to carry out a full repair of this very busy estate road.

This was scheduled to take place last autumn, but was postponed when Yorkshire Water announced major mains renewals on Otley Road and Beckwith Road, which are taking place right now.

Beckwith Road will be resurfaced when the utility company has finished its work.