What’s it like to fill in potholes for a living?
That’s what the Herald went to find out this week. We met up with Mick Bishop, Michael Jackson and Luke Ryan and supervisor Mark Watson of the road maintenance unit of East Sussex Highways.
Mick has been doing the job for 50 years, while Luke is an apprentice fresh on the scene.
The team was faced with a 12-foot-long pothole in Willingdon and showed us the painstaking process of filling it in. First task is to saw it around the damaged area and dig it out so it does not fracture, then it can neatly come away.
The remaining rubble is removed and teams seal the sides of the hole and apply a sticky gel to the base which turns black when dry.
Bitumen is then poured into the hole and smoothed over. It is compacted by a machine called a wacker and a seal spray is applied once more. The whole process took around 45 minutes.
Highways fixed around 30,000 potholes last year. They usually emerge after cold weather when roads freeze and thaw repeatedly – so crews have been kept busy recently in the chilly spell caused by the Beast from the East.
The Herald spoke to Mike Egleton, service director at East Sussex Highways. He said, “We have got half a million people in East Sussex. Highways has an impact on everybody.
“It’s the one public service that has an impact on everybody. So everybody’s got a view as you can imagine.”
When asked whether it was a thankless task, he said, “We have been reviewing compliments against complaints and we actually get more compliments.
“The main calls at the moment with the public are about potholes and rightly so. We get about 100 calls a day about it.”
Mike explained that a hole needs to be at least 40mm deep to be classified as a pothole. Response times depend on how much of a risk the pothole poses – a Level 1 ‘high risk’ pothole is 100mm or more and dealt with as an emergency. Teams will aim to get to it in around two hours.
Meanwhile a pothole that is around 60mm deep will be dealt with in five days, and one at just 40mm within 28 days.
He said dealing with the resources available is sometimes a struggle, “We have to make our funding go as far as possible. It’s more pressure on the staff. We get more calls.
“The whole team is responding really well. They do a great job. We can’t be everywhere all the time.
“We rely on the public telling us where the issues are, as well as stewards. We appreciate when people let us know and we are really grateful.
“We appreciate there are more potholes out there. We want to deal with them, we want to keep East Sussex safe.”
To report a pothole, click here.
And to read more about our Pothole Watch campaign, click here.