Under new contracts issued by the Highways Agency to its suppliers, any potholes smaller than 15cm wide or 4cm deep on trunk roads or motorways will not in future be classed as urgent for repair.
The news has been seized upon by some media and also by the Institute of Advanced Motorists, who have suggested that A-road and motorway potholes are set to get bigger and the cost of repairs will eventually be higher.
A spokesman for the Highways Agency, which looks after the strategic road network in England, said the specification of the new contracts remains that the paved area must provide a safe and even surface for all road users.
“Under our new contracts, for the first time, there are mandatory requirements that potholes wider than 15 cm (6 inches) diameter, or deeper than 4cm (1.5 inches) or deeper than the road surface thickness, should always be rectified within 24 hours of verification,” he said.
”The new contracts do not reduce maintenance standards for potholes, they provide best value for public money by ensuring that vital work is done when necessary and that routine maintenance is prioritised on the basis of information about the condition of the network.”
“We are not saying that we are not going to repair potholes under 15cm,” he added.
A series of severe winters has taken a heavy toll on road surfaces in Britain’s trunk road network, maintained by devolved transport bodies in the home nations, as well as its local road networks maintained by local authorities.
In Scotland alone the estimated cost of repairing the road network currently stands at £2.25billion.