Swansea Council launched its 48-hour pothole repair pledge in August 2016 as a response to residents who said something needed to be done about pothole problems.
Despite routine work that focused on statutory duty and had a thorough risk-based approach, the Council’s reputation for speedy pothole repair was at an all-time low. Previous systems had made little or no impact on customer service levels, so a radical new approach, above and beyond the existing regime, albeit with some financial investment was proposed.
The plan was to act within 48 hours of any pothole report coming through to the department - the repair would be made and photographic evidence returned to the customer to support the delivery of such a service.
A collaborative approach between Highways and the Customer Service teams, along with significant changes to working practice was critical to the project’s success. The concept was piloted a month before the launch in July 2016 to ensure the process was sound and to learn from any mistakes, ensuring the pledge could be met 100% of the time.
Bob Fenwick, Swansea Council’s Highways Maintenance Group Leader said, “The success of the 48hr repair pledge is founded on a new approach that all reports from the public are classified as ‘potholes’ – no statutory duty, no review of size, depth, risk etc. to instigate separate teams dependent on severity – one team, one job – potholes.”
The creation of a new reporting system with two points of access either via an online form or a direct phone call to the customer service centre has speeded up and unified the process. Potholes are repaired quickly and therefore repeat call demand on the customer service team has been reduced significantly.
Last year, the Council spent £1m resurfacing roads, £600k resurfacing pavements and around £2m on routine repairs like fixing pot holes, drains and kerb as well as gritting roads. Despite this there is still a backlog of resurfacing work and it would be easy to fall back on statutory work as priority, but this doesn’t give the customer what they want.
Establishing two dedicated Pothole Repair Teams forms part of the additional budget of £150k. The Pothole Initiative Teams now sit alongside the routine repair teams, PATCH (Ward based medium sized repair programme) teams and the planned road maintenance teams. The pothole repair teams have marked vans and A-Frame notices so that residents know what they’re doing and why.
Bob added, “Quality engagement and interaction with the public was recognised as being critical to success. Failure to demonstrate delivery of the pledge could have damaged reputation. Hence there was and continues to be a very honest approach with the public.
“The main problem faced by the team was getting enough information to locate the pothole and when faced with this challenge the customer was contacted and asked to provide more detail. Initial demand was extremely high, but the team delivered, when others thought they would fail.”
The priority task when the pledge was initiated was to ensure that the Council delivered on time, every time. A huge marketing campaign was instigated to ensure residents knew about the campaign and what the pledge meant for them.
Since the launch of the 48-hour pothole repair pledge last summer almost 3,000 holes in the road have been fixed within two days of being reported (with 93% customer satisfaction). And the commitment to the pledge has helped see the total number of road repairs over the last 12 months soar to more than 11,200.
The Council has recently approved a new budget for next year which includes a further commitment of £150k to continue with the innovative pothole repair pledge and maintain the extra funding for the service, which is a credit to all parties.