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

Director, Governance and Improvement

City of York Council
£85-95k plus relocation package
We are looking for an exceptional individual to be appointed to the position of Director of Governance and Improvement. York, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of York Council

Senior Team Leader

Redbridge London Borough Council
£35,992 to £38,994 per annum inclusive
Looking for individuals with initiative, evidence of experience in managing a street cleansing service and motivating... Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Road Safety Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,589 - £31,371
We are looking for a candidate who can participate in developing and delivering technically sound highway engineering solutions. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Information Management Officer x 2 Jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£24,799 - £26,317
Looking for better and smarter ways to operate and you will play a key role working across a broad range of service... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Graduate Engineer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£24,313 - £28,785 per annum
This is an exciting new opportunity in the Highway Services team to play a pivotal role in creating a safe and... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Chief Fire Officer

West Sussex County Council
Competitive Salary plus Financial Support for Recruitment and Retention
We are looking for an exceptional individual who can lead our Fire & Rescue Service Chichester, West Sussex
Recuriter: West Sussex County Council

School Crossing Patrol

Brent Council
£21,591 - £22,377 p.a. inc. pro rata.
Looking for someone that is friendly, has great communication skills and enjoys working with children. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Engineer (Highway Design)

Darlington Borough Council
£31,371 - £33,799
Looking to employ an experienced person within the Highway Design team to meet the challenge of enabling development... Darlington, Durham
Recuriter: Darlington Borough Council

Project Manager – Major Maintenance and Infrastructure Projects 

Liverpool City Council
£42,683 - £47,491 
The successful candidate will ensure that effective procurement and delivery of highways maintenance and improvement. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Green Space Development Manager

Camden London Borough Council
£45,504 - £52,786
The successful candidate will join a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team and contribute to our commitment to deliver for... Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Green Space Project Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£40,829 - £47,360
The successful candidate will join a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team and contribute to our commitment to deliver for the people of Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Senior Principal Planning Officer - Fixed Term

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£39.774 - £42.684
Looking for key members of the team that will be instrumental in transforming the Borough and opportunities available for residents.  Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Career Grade Planner

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£27228 - £36711
In this role you will deal primarily with small-scale planning applications covering a wide range of planning issues. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Career Grade Planning Officer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£27.228 - £36.711
We offer a great opportunity to develop your career with a positive approach to development and a desire to put... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Director of Place and Communities

Ashfield District Council
As the Director for Place and Communities you will provide strategic and operational leadership across a range of key services including Waste... Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: Ashfield District Council

Highways Operative - 3 Jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£18,426 - £21,166 (plus 20% enhancement if working in the night team)
You will be responsible for providing effective maintenance and development of the Kirklees road network carrying out a range of highway works. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Rights of Way Officer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£26,470 - £28,221
The purpose of the role is to implement and advise on the maintenance, protection, improvement and promotion of access... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Road Safety and Sustainable Transport Assistant

Telford & Wrekin Council
£11.41 - £12.35 per hour
Are you passionate about Road Safety, and want to help educate road users and develop their skills? Wrekin, Telford
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council


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

Head of Highways Infrastructure

Leeds City Council
£72,397 - £79,637
Seeking an exceptional candidate for the position of Head of Highways Infrastructure to lead on the authority’s duty to... Leeds, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Leeds City Council