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Pothole repairs up, compensation claims down

Exemplar Award Winner- Improvement and Efficiency Award Winner: Kent County Council

Kent County Council has developed a system to reduce the occurrence of potholes and footway defects, and to find and fix swiftly those which do occur, all with fewer Highway Inspectors and lower compensation claims. Kent County Council inspects and maintains over 8,500 km of highway and 6,000 km of footway, and surveys have consistently shown that prevention and quick repair of potholes and trip hazards across the network is a top priority for the public.

As a response to this clear demand from citizens for improvement, plus a desire to reduce the compensation claims stemming from burst tyres and damaged vehicle suspension, right through to broken bones, an initiative to reduce potholes and footway defects came from the council’s leadership.

Incorporated into this initiative was a ‘more for less’ strategy that constituted the design of a more efficient inspection and communication system. As such, the prime reasons for the project were:

• citizen safety

• citizen satisfaction

• efficiency improvements and cost savings through ‘the art of the possible’

The council’s Inspection Team prior to the project had 40 Highway Inspectors covering safety as well as other inspection duties. The challenge was to enable fewer Inspectors to carry out more inspections, to react sooner to reports of problems, and to administer works orders more swiftly so that repairs were completed sooner.

How the project was carried out

In 2011, the council embarked on this new way of carrying out routine safety inspections of the highway. Analysis using geographic data showed that it should be possible for far fewer Inspectors to undertake countywide inspections, covering more efficient routes with a revised road and footway hierarchy and revised work priorities, in order to focus on the identification, reporting and repair of safety critical defects.

The new regime required detailed analysis of the LSG so that new routes could be developed and implemented, and from this analysis it was possible to formulate a completely new inspection structure.

A geographic analysis was then undertaken to ensure each Inspector had approximately the same amount of inspection duty using ‘soft’ boundaries that focused on creating more efficient use of Inspectors’ time. The resulting coverage of proposed routes was presented for consultation with the Inspectors for fi ne tuning, discussion and acceptance.

Outcomes

The project achieved its targets by seeing 36% fewer pothole repair jobs in 2011/12, compared to 2010/11; the amount paid out by the council as a result of pothole compensation claims reduced by 35%; and all this was achieved with the number of inspectors reduced from 40 to only 12.

Previously, additions to the inspection network would have happened on an ad hoc basis without updates potentially for a couple of years. Now, inspection routes are completely integrated with the council’s LSG, updated instantly with network changes, and fed into the works and asset management system via LSG downloads from the NSG hub.

Whilst the project had its initial limitations in simply splitting the network into four inspection frequencies, there is now the opportunity to introduce different levels of frequency, including seasonal and combined footway and carriageway inspections to further maximise the inspectors’ time. This has so far involved the introduction of a new three-monthly footway inspection.

There is still a lot to do, but the council is moving forward and developing further improvements to service delivery, ensuring that the highway network is safer to use and roads and pavements are better maintained.

Key benefits

• compensation claims down 35%

• repair orders down 36%

• Inspectors reduced from 40 to 12

• estimated cost savings in region of £5 million by end of fiscal year 2013/14

• full visibility of the inspection schedules, routes and required frequencies

• a fully electronic and paperless way of working

• fully auditable inspection data

• improved timeframes relating to gazetteer updates and application of inspection routes

• identification of previously missing footway network

• foundation for further efficiency

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