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Warwickshire County Council responds to coroner

Warwickshire County Council has said that it will do more to fill potholes and track repair work following the death of Kate Vanloo, who was killed after falling from her bike in January 2016. The pothole she hit had first been identified in March 2015, but a subcontractor, unable to locate it, repaired one three miles away instead.

A keen triathlete and member of the British Triathlon Federation, Vanloo was cycling home from a training ride with Rugby Triathlon Club when she hit a pothole in Holt Road near Napton.

She was thrown from her bike and into the path of an oncoming car. She died at the scene.

A September 2017 inquest into her death heard that the pothole was around 10cm deep and completely hidden by a puddle that spanned the road. Vanloo was unable to avoid the pothole due to oncoming traffic.

The Highways Authority responsible for the road was Warwickshire County Council and the pothole had been identified by an inspection in March 2015 and again in September 2015.

In his conclusion, the Assistant Coroner for Warwickshire, John Buckley, noted that the council’s policy required that such ‘category 2’ potholes be repaired within 28 days of identification. For financial reasons, repair works were suspended between the end of July and the end of September 2015, causing a backlog.

The council had a contract with Balfour Beatty Living Places for highway maintenance inspections and repairs. Balfour Beatty subcontracted the road repair work to CR MacDonald Limited.

The pothole had been due to be repaired on November 2, 2015. However, the person from CR MacDonald Ltd tasked with carrying out the repair could not locate the pothole.

They had GPS co-ordinates and two maps, as well as a photograph of the hole showing a nearby farm as a point of reference. They also had the official street name, but could not locate it using a sat-nav device.

Instead of carrying out the correct repair, the person instead filled in a completely pothole on a road three miles away. They amended the paperwork to state the different location but did not draw this to anyone’s attention.

Based on the information sent to them, both Balfour Beatty and Warwickshire County Council believed that the Holt Road pothole had been filled. The error was not picked up until after Vanloo’s death.

Addressing Warwickshire County Council’s programmes delivery engineer in his report, Buckley said: “In my opinion urgent action should be taken to prevent future deaths and I believe you and your organisation have the power to take such action.

“The action should include an explanation of the steps you have taken to speed up the time it takes to repair potholes once they have been identified and what steps you have taken to track the progress of work orders that have been sent to Balfour Beatty Living Places for action.”

The council has now responded, outlining a series of measures it has taken. These include issuing subcontractors with handheld GPS devices on which job details are stored and from which records can be uploaded once repairs have been completed.

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