Pothole FAQs

  • What is a pothole?A pothole is a failure in the road surface that has been caused by water seeping into the underlying soil structure and pressure from vehicles passing over the area.
  • What should I do if I see a pothole?If you see a pothole it is important to report it to your local council.
  • Is my local council responsible for damage to vehicles or personal injury as a result of potholes?Sadly, not usually. Your local council is only potentially liable to pay for damage if it can be proved that it has been negligent. It is not expected to keep the roads pothole-free at all times, and only those that meet certain criteria, and that they are made aware of, that will be fixed immediately. The rest will be repaired only in line with maintenance plans.
  • What causes potholes?Tarmac is designed to repel rain and snow and allow it to drain into the drains or the hard shoulder. However, over time tarmac can begin to crack as a result of heat and traffic stress. These cracks allow water to seep underneath the tarmac. During the winter months this water freezes and expands, moving the gravel underneath the tarmac. When the water melts a hole is left under the road and the tarmac collapses as a result of the stress from vehicles. Snow and ice are the worst conditions for exacerbating existing road defects due to the repetition of this freeze-thaw process. However, hot temperatures can also be to blame as the road surface can both melt and expand in extreme heat.
  • How long does it take to fix a pothole?This depends on the size and nature of the pothole defect.
  • What is the difference between a temporary and a permanent pothole repair?Permanent pothole repairs involve cutting the area around the pothole out of the road with a diamond-bladed saw to give the repair clean, flush sides. The hole is then cleaned and painted with a liquid bituminous binder to seal it. The hole is then filled with hot bitumen-bound material which is raked and finally compacted, providing a new road surface. Temporary pothole repairs are used as a short-term measure to ensure the road is safe for motorists. The repair is carried out using a deferred set cold material to fill the hole until a permanent repair can take place.
  • I have reported a pothole, why hasn’t it been fixed yet?There are a number of reasons why the pothole you reported hasn’t been fixed. Cold and wet weather can compromise effectiveness of local authority teams and equipment, while larger potholes that are over 40mm deep are prioritised over small potholes due to the increased risk posed to motorists. Additionally, not every council has as many resources as it would like.

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