Millions of pounds have been spent repairing the city’s roads in recent years. With wet summers, long winters and a squeeze on council budgets, is the problem going to get worse? Juliette Bains reports.
PROBLEM potholes on the city’s roads have been driving motorists round the bend for years.
In the past five years alone, Leeds City Council has spent nearly £124million on repairing crumbling roads and received reports of over 50,900 potholes during that time.
With weather conditions worsening and cash-strapped councils’ belts tightening, it seems the problem could be here to stay.
The weather plays a huge part in the state of the roads, with the effects of sun, rain and frost causing tarmac to contract and expand, weakening the road structure and creating potholes.
The recent long, drawn-out winter meant that Leeds City Council received 12,000 reports of potholes in just one year.
In a bid to try and combat the impact of the winter weather, the council is taking it up a gear and earmarked an extra £1.5million to help reduce the number of potholes.
The extra funding has come from cash diverted from other monies reserved for road refurbishments and will go towards repairing some of the city’s busiest roads.
Work has already begun on this project and will continue throughout the summer.
As well as this additional pot of money, Leeds City Council also has an annual budget of £1.1million to cover the costs of reactive repairs to the roads.
Whilst the majority of this goes towards repairing potholes, it is also used to resolve other road repairing issues.
And on top of that, there’s an additional £2.3million to carry out patching (permanent) repairs.
But with thousands of potholes reported to the council every year, which areas do they tackle first?
A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “Potholes come in all shapes and sizes and our aim in repairing them is to try and remove the danger that potholes can present to the public.
“Our highways inspectors identify potholes based on specific criteria.
“A defect greater than 40mm in the road or 20mm on the footpath would be identified as requiring attention.
“Where the identified defects are in the wheel paths on roads or in busy areas with a high footfall, it is likely that we would classify the defects as Category 1.
“We would then attempt to repair those defects by the end of the next working day.
“Defects in less critical locations we would classify as Category 2 and repair them within 28 days.”
She added: “We also receive reports of defects from members of the public and we try from the information provided to us to divide the reports into the same categories as those provided by our inspectors.”
Currently, potholes are repaired by ‘patching’, which is where new tarmac is used to fill the hole.
The cost of attending a pothole for repair is roughly £47.
Although when there is more in one place, the charge remains the same.
As well as weathering, there are a number of other reasons why potholes occur.
Heavy vehicles such as buses and lorries can put the road surface under stress due to their weight.
Then there’s the damage caused by gas, electricity and other utility companies who often need to dig up roads to make repairs. Although their work is often essential, it can weaken the structure of the road and increase the risk of potholes forming.
As previously reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post, over the past five years highways bosses have forked out more than £620,000 in damages caused by potholes in Leeds.
And since 2010, more than 1,670 compensation claims relating to potholes have been submitted to the council.
Last year around 355 claims were made by drivers for personal injury settlements or repairs to their cars due to incidents involving potholes.
Residents can report potholes to Leeds City Council via phone, e-mail or online and they are also logged during highway inspections.
If you want to report potholes and road defects online, you can use the ‘report a highways problem’ form on the Leeds City Council website.
Alternatively, potholes and other road defects can be reported by calling 0113 222 4407 or e-mailing email@example.com. The phone line is open from Monday to Friday, from 8am to 6pm.