Yes, we’re pothole central – but why is that?

The road surface at Tower Way off St Peter's Place, Canterbury

Winter is over and spring has finally sprung. With this, the full extent of Canterbury’s pothole problem can be seen. For anyone who drives, they are a nightmare.

From uncomfortable journeys to severe damage to vehicles, potholes are a major issue especially in places like Sturry Road which is almost falling apart.

It caused me to wonder: what are the causes of potholes and what is being done about them?

Many surfaces in Canterbury are made of asphalt. It is cheap, easy to use and durable. Due to its porous nature, it absorbs noise making roads quieter and smoother rides.

But it isn’t indestructible. Because of its porous nature, water is able to seep into it.

Adam Harding: Potholes are here to stay

Although this isn’t an issue on its own, when the temperature drops, the water freezes and then thaws.

As it freezes it expands and creates pressure on the surrounding asphalt, eroding it and creating larger cracks.

Once it melts, large holes are left and as traffic moves over it, the road begins to break up.

This year we have had freezing weather, wet spells and then warmth. This constant change of water, freezing and thawing, will have exacerbated the breakdown of the roads and cause them to crumble.

High levels of traffic also worsen the condition of the road surface. The more traffic a road has to take the more stress the asphalt has to absorb, weakening the bonds in the road and causing it to crumble away.

With ever-increasing levels of cars on our roads creating more and more stress levels for the asphalt, potholes will appear.

Another major cause of potholes are the private utility companies. Local utility companies can often be seen digging up the roads in and around Canterbury for all sorts of reasons, whether it be linking up new services to their network or maintaining and repairing faulty pipes and lines.

The Asphalt industry Alliance (AIA) reported that a single road trench can reduce the life of a road by up to 30%.

Further to this, over the last year, on average, 13,252 road openings were created in each local authority. This is an increase of 1,000 road openings on the year before.

Finally, our roads are old. Very old. The AIA reports that road resurfacing should occur every 10-20 years to maintain a waterproof layer and reduce the freezing-thawing effects. The actual amount of work carried out is nowhere near this.

What about the work being done filling in these potholes?

Kent County Council reports that it is investing another £2m in repairs of potholes. But with a backlog of repairs waiting to be done, the authority is fighting a losing battle.

So what does the future hold for Canterbury’s roads? Well, with a deficit in funding for current repairs, ageing roads, the likelihood of current weather patterns to continue due to climate change, increased traffic, and the continued need for utility firms to dig up our roads, I wouldn’t expect Canterbury’s potholes to be disappearing any time soon.

Adam Harding has lived in Canterbury since 2010. He is a master’s student at the University of Kent and works at Saffron Cafe in Castle Street.


  1. Asphalt roads used to be bound with a durable tar – a bitumen product, Tarmac was impervious to water. Not any more… The new substandard road surfaces are cheaper to apply, are bound with low cost vynal which cannot withstand the heavy traffic. Sadly it is a move that has proved good for road repair business and bad for cars and people. Its questionable benefits include increased stopping distance, it holds water and increases risk of skidding in damp conditions which is very sadly good for insurance, car repair, health care and funeral industries. To conceal the number of accidents and fatal crashes that are caused by this material, additional surface treatment is applied at junctions and traffic lights…


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