Drivers to report pothole problems on social media
Drivers will be asked to use social media to complain about the state of the roads in a new plan aimed at tackling potholes.
Earlier this month, Oxfordshire County Council admitted the condition of its roads was worsening due to a lack of funding.
It now wants road users themselves to help direct its Dragon Patcher, a new piece of equipment which fixes potholes, to areas where it is most needed.
The council spends about £40m on mending roads a year – including filling in about 25,800 potholes – but to fix all the problems on the county’s roads it would need to pay out £165m.
In an effort to target the roads most in need of repairs, council bosses said officers will now actively look at tweets and messages on Facebook, as well as reports on popular website FixMyStreet.
Councillor Yvonne Constance, cabinet member for environment, said: “Road condition is at the top of the list for many people when it comes to what they would like to improve.
“You only have to look at social media to see this, which is why we want to take social media posts or ‘street tweets’ into account.”
She added: “Roads really matter to the people of Oxfordshire and so does having a say on where their money is spent.
“People make their views known in a range of ways these days and a lot of that is done on social media, so we should not just be listening but also using what residents say to help us make decisions.”
The council’s budget for highways has dropped sharply from £34.6m in 2010 to £17.5m this year.
But it said it hopes this new approach will ensure it gets more money from the Department for Transport in maintenance funding.
A recent report found a third of 10-metre stretches looked at by the county council across its network needed resurfacing or less severe surface dressing. That was up from 28 per cent of those looked at a year before.
But the council is confident its Dragon Patcher machine, which is operated by contractor Skanska, will play an important role in reducing the number of potholes and improving the state of roads.
Owen Jenkins, the council’s head of infrastructure delivery, said it fills in about 97 per cent of the potholes reported to it over a year but they are now looking at a broader range of sources.
But he said although people’s views will be taken into account, they will not be allowed to trump other factors, such as how frequently the road is used.
Mr Jenkins said: “There are often choices to be made. Take a rural village. It may well be that those preservation treatments are better in the local rat runs, if you like, and that’s maybe where people might feed into the council and say: that road, that’s really heavily trafficked.
“We can’t take in the factor of who shouts loudest as the only criteria. One person shouting very loudly because they’ve buckled their wheels or something along those lines isn’t necessarily going to swing the whole score.”
Jim King, who served as Witney Town Council’s Mayor last year, was so keen for people to report faults that he led a campaign to get more people using FixMyStreet.
He said: “I think FixMyStreet is great, providing the county council has the contracts (to fix the roads) in place.”
Mr King added: “What we’ve got to do is get people reporting things. It’s all very well people moaning about it but I take my residents in my ward and I encourage them to report these things.
“The more people who are in the system reporting the problems the better, as far as I’m concerned.”
The new approach is part of the council’s new Highways Infrastructure Management Policy.