County council to tackle the region's cold-weather potholes

DEVON County Council is preparing to launch an emergency inspection regime to identify and repair potholes caused by the recent freezing temperatures.

DEVON County Council is preparing to launch an emergency inspection regime to identify and repair potholes caused by the recent freezing temperatures.

Within the next week, the County Council will have special teams from its contractor SWH looking for potholes and defects on as much of Devon's 8,000 mile road network as possible.

They will complete an emergency intermediate repair to them as they find them over the next few weeks, starting with the busier main roads. That will make the network as safe as possible and provide Devon with a detailed picture of how much damage has been caused by the recent cold weather. As the big freeze was so prolonged, it is expected that the estimated repair bill will exceed that of last year, which was around �11 million over and above that of a normal winter.

The County Council has fixed almost 40,000 potholes already this financial year - double the usual amount - following last winter's severe weather, which was colder than the 30 year average.

And Devon County Council Leader John Hart is today leading a delegation at the County Council's Network to lobby the Government for more cash to fix potholes.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highways and transportation, said: "This has been the harshest winter for 30 years and as the snow and ice disappears, we are seeing potholes forming on our roads which are going to be a problem. We will now be starting a rapid response programme to get to grips with the potholes caused by this latest bout of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. We're taking proactive steps with concentrated inspections to find and fix defects as quickly as we can, which will give us a better idea of how widespread the damage is.

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"We won't be able to get to every defect straight away because of the sheer size of our network, so we still need people to be our eyes and ears. We have already targeted resources at existing defects, and found new ways of working to repair potholes much more quickly and efficiently in recent months. But we will be stepping that up even more over the next few weeks, and it's now time that the government provides us with more resources to allow us to get to grips with this."

Around 19,000 tonnes of salt has been used on Devon's road network since November 30, compared with the usual amount of between 10-12,000 tonnes for an entire average winter. We are only half way through the winter period with historically the worst weather yet to come. Temperatures dropped below freezing in Devon for 29 out of 30 days in December and into January this year. Last week temperatures dropped to as low as -16 C in South Molton overnight and the lowest road temperature was -12 C at Ashmill on the North Devon Link Road.

In sub-zero temperatures, road surfaces become brittle which can result in cracking or existing cracks can worsen, chippings can loosen and potholes are formed.

The county council is currently in the midst of a major additional capital �2 million repair programme, with 88 schemes throughout the county, repairing more than 80 miles of roads. Since the end of June, Devon County Council's contractor SWH has been successfully trialling a more efficient two-stage system in Mid and east Devon which is enabling them to repair 100% of defects within seven working days of them being identified.

Potholes and safety defects on the county's roads can be reported online at www.devon.gov.uk or by calling 0845 155 1004.

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