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Dalek to exterminate Britain’s potholes?

By raccars Published

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Potholes are a serious problem on the UK’s roads and a constant danger to British motorists. Far too many drivers have felt the shock of their wheels disappearing into an unseen pothole and then been faced with the further shock of a costly repair bill to fix the damage caused to tyres, wheels and suspension components. Councils do have claims procedures to recoup this money but the cash available is being cut and many claimants will see their claim rejected or receive a relatively paltry amount of compensation. In the financial year ending April 2013, councils across Britain paid out £2.5 million in compensation but figures show that claims have increased by 79%, while budgets have been squeezed.

Disappointingly, the situation is only getting worse. The recent wet winter has exacerbated the problem and despite the fact that two million potholes were filled across England and Wales last year, the backlog has actually increased. That backlog is such that it will take around 12 years to catch up for the average UK council area, while in London, the figure is nearer 14 years. According to industry body, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), the financial cost is likely to be around £12 billion. The AIA also reports that budget cuts have meant that there is now a 20% shortfall on the investment required to stop the situation deteriorating further and that 18% of the UK’s roads are now in 'poor structural condition,' which means that their remaining lifespan is less than five years.

One ray of hope in this sorry tale may come in the unusual shape of a new pothole fixing machine, known as the `Dalek.' This machine is being tested by a number of local authorities across the country and is able to fix potholes in an astonishing two minutes, instead of the usual one hour repair time. Such time-savings will also dramatically slash costs and give councils a more realistic chance of catching up with the backlog.

The Dalek is safer, too, as the machine is operated from the lorry’s cab via an extending robotic arm. Once positioned over the hole, the system uses a specially mixed filler of gravel and tar to spray into the pothole, achieving a permanent fix.

Figures obtained by vehicle recovery firm, Britannia Rescue, via a Freedom of Information request, show that the Government spends only £16 per year per driver on road maintenance, less than 10% of the income from road tax. Regardless of new technologies like the admirable Dalek, this is perhaps the real problem that needs fixing.

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