When is a pothole a pothole? RSTA calls for standards


The Government should bolster guidance and standards in the local highways sector to help address a major loss of expertise since the start of austerity, a key industry body has warned.

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has called for a national statutory standard definition of a pothole, warning that ‘cash-strapped local authorities may move the goalposts in order to try to save money by not repairing smaller potholes’.

To be or not to be a pothole?

The warnings follow the news that Perth and Kinross Council has recently redefined its classification of a pothole and declared they must now be 60mm deep – an increase of 50% from its previous 40mm classification – before they are repaired and filled.

A council spokesman said: 'The council agreed when setting its budget for 2016/17 to implement the increased intervention levels for repairs from 40mm to 60mm. To ensure safety, we will continue to undertake repairs in inherently dangerous circumstances as part of a risk assessment approach.'

In a statement, the RSTA said: 'The lack of a national pothole definition means that we have a postcode lottery of road repair as different local authorities take different approaches. There is no consistency.

'Under the Road Traffic Act 1980 all local highway authorities have a duty of care to maintain their road network but there is no national definition or agreement as to when a pothole is a pothole.'

The news comes as the current national code of practice for highways maintenance - Well-maintained Highways, which does not provide a national definition of potholes - is under review, with a new version set to be released by Christmas.

Well-managed Highways Infrastructure, which is set to replace the current code, will bring in a risk-based approach to asset maintenance and is likely to remove the concept of national standards, the sector has been told.

Speaking to Transport Network, RSTA chief executive Howard Robinson, said: ‘We have lost a lot of expertise when it comes to highways maintenance. Taking a risk-based approach on one hand would be sensible but we need standards around competency. If we are assessing risk we have to be confident in the competency of those assessing the risk.

‘It might be a case that we need a standardised approach to fixing potholes. It’s been going round the houses for a number of years. Taking a risk-based approach is commendable but we have to have a yardstick or metric to assess the risk. It is very strange as the highways sector is engulfed in standardisation.’

Mr Robinson said he not have a readymade definition of a pothole but added that one could be established by joint working across the sector and industry to produce guidance on the issue.

‘Developed jointly, this could put in place simple guidance to allow inexperienced personnel to spot when a pothole is emerging and could become hazardous, which is missing at the moment,’ he said.

Mr Robinson added that if councils wished to check contractors' skills it could ensure that they are certified against the Sector Scheme Document 23 for 'Small Scale Pavement Repairs'.

When a pothole is a pothole (RSTA figures):

Gloucestershire - a road surface defect becomes a pothole if it is 40mm deep and 30cm wide

Worcestershire - a defect must be 40mm deep but 20cm wide

Bath and NE Somerset - a defect must be 30mm deep to be accepted as being a pothole

Hounslow, London - a pothole will only be repaired urgently if it reaches 75mm

Warwickshire - a pothole of up to 50mm is not considered to be hazardous and will only be repaired as part of routine maintenance six months after being reported. Potholes up to 100mm will take up to 28 days to be repaired

Trafford - a pothole warrants repair at 40mm in depth

Herefordshire County Council - aims to record and treat all potholes regardless of depth


Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Highways Estimator

Competitive Salary
As the Highways Estimator you will join a busy environment and become an integral part of the team. Hounslow (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Ringway

County Highways Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
Seeking a highly motivated leader and an excellent communicator, who has a proven ability to build relationships and trust, leading by example. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Local Highways Manager (East) - Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolnshire County Council
G12 £43,662 - £50,430
Seeking someone who combines excellent technical knowledge with a dedication to the customer. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Assistant Director (Planning, Regeneration & Transport)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£87,791 per annum  
This is an exciting time to join Rotherham and make a real difference. We are looking for an outstanding Assistant Director who will bring... Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Corporate Director

Islington London Borough Council
Up to £135k
You will share our values and be passionate about helping us shape the Islington of the future. Islington, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Islington London Borough Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,074 - £30,756
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Junior Energy Manager Apprentice

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
The right person for this job will be pro-active and innovative in finding a way forward. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Career Grade Drainage Engineer

Swindon Borough Council
£19,092 to £40,680 p.a
Working in the asset management team, you’ll support the work of the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and Highways Authority. Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Highway Construction Project Manager

Brent Council
£50,442 - £53,526 p.a. inc.
We are looking for an accomplished highway construction project manager to support the delivery of two high priority highway schemes. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Signals & UTMC Manager

Bristol City Council
£42,683 - £45,591
Looking for someone with proven management experience, enthusiasm, creativity, vision and good communication skills. City of Bristol
Recuriter: Bristol City Council

Principal Highways Project Engineer

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
£34,106 - £35,229 per annum
The post holder will be responsible for project managing the delivery of two highway projects on the Key Route Network. Knowsley (Metropolitan borough), Merseyside
Recuriter: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Traffic Schemes Officer

Oxfordshire County Council
£22,021 - £29,636 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen to play a central role with the Traffic Team in the maintenance of the highway network... Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£29,055 to £30,756
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team! Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Engineer – Traffic Regulation

Telford & Wrekin Council
£23,866 to £25,463
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Environment Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£29,909 – £32,233 Grade 11 - £33,136 - £35,229
All Environment Officers lead, project manage and/or co-ordinate large environmental projects... Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways Quantity Surveyor

Leicester City Council
£30,756 - £33,136 pro-rata per annum
Working in the Highways Maintenance Group, you will be responsible for the operational highway maintenance activities Leicester, Leicestershire
Recuriter: Leicester City Council

Highways Engineer/Inspector

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£22956 - £32637 per annum
Highways Engineer/Inspector - PermanentThere are plenty of reasons to take a closer look at Royal Greenwich.Royal Greenwich is undergoing a huge trans England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Senior Project Engineer

Derbyshire County Council
Grade 13 £39,867 - £43,282 per annum
Derbyshire County Council is looking for an enthusiastic, enterprising and experienced laboratory manager Derbyshire
Recuriter: Derbyshire County Council

Engineer - Bridges

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
We have a vacancy for a Structures Engineer working within the Bridge’s team! Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council


Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
You will be required to lead the delivery of a wide range of highway improvements and maintenance projects... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council