Can ‘find and fix gangs’ solve borough’s pothole problems?

Potholes on Beech Road outside Beech House Gardens flower shop, Sowerby Bridge
Potholes on Beech Road outside Beech House Gardens flower shop, Sowerby Bridge

Calderdale Council is looking to create a new strategy to solve pothole problems in the borough and replace outdated methods such as ‘pack and whack’ temporary repairs.

The strategy proposals from Mark Thompson, the Council’s director of economy and environment, will be discussed by members on the Economy and Environment scrutiny panel on March 2.

Currently pothole repairs are done on a prioritised basis when identified by Highway Safety Inspections or reported by members of the public.

These repairs are carried out using two Emergency Support Units (ESU’s) and three Rapid Response Units (RR) which are paid for on an hourly basis with additional costs for any materials used.

The most popular current repair method is to carry out a temporary repair conventionally known as “pack and whack”.

This only incorporates placing repair material into the developed pothole and tamping it down flat.

However, Mr Thompson said: “There is a need to move away from this type of repair as they lack durability and do not provide value for money.

“Indeed, the historical use of temporary repairs has compounded the overall number of repairs identified during the inspection process.”

He explained that potholes are a problem which occur throughout the year, but more predominately in late winter and early spring, when the road network has been subjected to freezing and thawing cycles.

The use of “Find and Fix gangs” involves the use of proactive repair gangs to target roads which are showing a large numbers of surface defects.

This work is in addition to the overall inspection regime and the gangs are required to “Find and Fix” all surface defects on that particular stretch of road.

“Historically a semi-permanent repair has been carried out on these defects by sealing the sides of the hole, filling it with hot bitumen macadam and compacting the material with a roller or vibrating plate.”

Between May 3 2016 and July 8 2016 a period of ten weeks, four gangs from local contractors were employed on “Find and Fix” repairing 7,678 defects at a cost of £87,000.

During 2017 an additional £85,000 has already been spent on “Find and Fix” repairs.

Also part of the planned improvements to the pothole repair system will be how permanent repairs are dealt with.

These generally require cut back to sound material, seal and bond, fill and machine role.

“Calderdale is currently working with other WYCA members to establish a standard for such repairs,” said Mr Thompson.

“Moving forward Calderdale will utilise both of these methods of permanent repair to improve the longevity of the highway network. Where appropriate, this methodology will also be adopted by the “Find and Fix” gangs.”

The scrutiny panel will meet at Halifax Town Hall on March 2 at 6pm.