POTHOLES are causing a headache for county council officials as they face dealing with £300m damage to roads across the county.
Lincolnshire County Council has a budget of £46.5m for all its road maintenance for 2011/12 but the recent spell of bad weather has only worsened a backlog of pothole repairs.
So far the council has received double the number of reports of potholes as last year.
Assistant director for highways and transport Paul Coathup said the council was facing “impossible challenges with tackling potholes”.
He said: “Our estimated backlog of £300m is based on condition surveys which we will only be able to update after this winter but it’s likely to be worse following the recent terrible weather.
“Potholes are sadly an inevitable result of this extreme winter.”
Some of the worst potholes spotted around this area this week are in Sutherland Way, Kesteven Road and Tinwell Road, Stamford, and on the A151 road between Bourne and Spalding.
The county council’s customer service centre received 333 reports in December, 2010, compared with 168 reports in December, 2009.
But the county council said this wasn’t a true reflection of how many potholes there were because it did not include reports made by e-mail or calls that did not come through the customer service centre. Also, clusters of holes can be recorded as one pothole.
Some of those on the council list might be duplicate reports and other problems go unreported. The council’s road crews also fix some holes on their rounds.
Mr Coathup said: “The crews who fix potholes are the same workforce who carry out gritting and with temperatures remaining below zero, road salting must be their first priority.
“We ask residents to bear with us as we tackle Lincolnshire’s vast road network as quickly as we can within limited resources.
“We can promise residents that, while we’ll never have a perfect road network, we will make every effort to keep the roads as safe as possible and to improve roads where we can, or at least minimise further deterioration.”
There is a round-the-clock team dedicated to patching up potholes in the south of the county, as well as the usual road crews who also carry out road maintenance and gritting.
When they are reported, potholes are divided into three categories: Emergency repairs to be carried out within 24 hours of being reported, repairs with a seven-day timescale and repairs to be carried out within 28 days.
Emergency potholes are those measuring at least 40mm in depth and 500mm across and any others reported are dealt with based on their location, the volume of traffic on that road and the danger they pose.
They are temporarily “patched up” in the short term.
Mr Coathup said permanent repairs cannot be carried out in wet conditions and added: “Permanent repairs are a larger job which may need road closures so need to be planned in at the best time.
“We also need to investigate whether the potholes are symptomatic of an underlying problem requiring a whole section of the road to be resurfaced, in which case it wouldn’t be a good use of money to permanently fill a pothole only to dig it up again a few weeks later.
“Our main priority is making the road safe when the pothole is discovered.”
Lincolnshire has one the largest road networks in the UK, covering 9,000km.
The county council received £2.6m from the Government in April to help clear the backlog from last winter but isn’t expecting to receive any financial help this year to tackle the problem because of cutbacks.
The county council’s salt stocks are also set to be replenished. A further 10,000 tons of salt was sent from Egypt this week to add to the 6,900 tons the county council has. So far this year, 24,700 tons of salt have been used – more than twice as much as used for the entire 2006/07 winter and almost as much as the whole 2008/09 winter.
To report road damage to the county council call 01522 782070 or visit www.lincolnshire.gov.uk.
What’s your view? Where are the worst potholes in Stamford, Rutland and Bourne? Take a picture and send them in with your comments. E-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or call the newsdesk to let us know 01780 750436.