Hole-ly unacceptable

How can we more easily address the pothole problem?

Once upon a time in the dim and distant period known as ‘February’, we regarded potholes as one of our more urgent problems. So much so, in fact, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced during the budget in March that there would be £2.5 billion of funding made available to address this.

Since then, of course, the pothole issue has been somewhat superseded. However, it remains a serious matter. This is because potholes are not merely an inconvenience that send a shudder up the spine. They also damage vehicles’ suspension and can make them career in the wrong direction. Cyclists are vulnerable to being thrown from their saddles, with potentially deadly consequences.

Potholes are caused by cracks forming in the road, into which water seeps and then freezes. As the water expands, this pushes the top layer of tarmac up and creates a hole. The trouble is it usually has to turn into a relatively large problem before anyone fixes it. And when potholes are fixed, it can be a time consuming, and dangerous process, with workers having to work alongside fast-moving vehicles.

It is estimated that poor roads cost British motorists billions every year in damage.

And the problem is only getting worse. A freedom-of-information request by the RAC to Highways England found there were 528 successful claims relating to vehicle damage caused by potholes in 2017/18. This was more than double the 212 recorded in 2016/17 and the 187 in 2015/16.

The challenge

The challenge, then, is to come up with a substance that can be used to repair potholes quickly, cheaply and efficiently while also producing zero waste and – ideally – using environmentally-friendly or recycled materials.