New pothole fixing machine ensures rural pothole problems don’t Drag-on


Another pothole-blasting monster has taken to the roads in Oxfordshire is joining two others already patrolling the county’s rural routes.

Oxfordshire County Council and their contractors, Skanska, have taken delivery of another Dragon patching machine which uses a combination of compressed air, heat, bitumen and chippings to repair holes.

The new Skanska Dragon Patcher means that there are now two machines working full-time in the county with another being shared with Peterborough and Cambridgeshire helping to deal with even more defects.

Quicker and cheaper repairs

Because it can repair a number of holes at the same time, and much faster, it can carry out repairs far more cheaply than before. A Dragon Patcher fixed hole costs just under £14 (m2 repair) whereas one fixed using conventional methods on a non-rural road costs, on average, just above £60.

On a good day a Dragon can repair up to 200 potholes and that, combined with the low road repair costs, means that the investment is a sound one.

Owen Jenkins, the county council’s Director for Infrastructure Delivery, said: “It is clear that these machines are having an impact not just in the amount of work they are getting through but also saving money to put into resurfacing.

“The county council, like all councils responsible for roads, has a very limited budget and we have to look for innovative ways to get more value out of every pound we spend.”

Teamwork and dedication

There is a dedicated team who travel round in all weathers finding the problems and making sure the work is carried out quickly and safely in each location.

Each dragon team is generally two people plus traffic management support when needed.

Mac Dragon – no relation to the machine of the same name! – manages the team and also has first experience of using its fire-breathing powers. He explained: “The team start work anywhere from 6.30am to 7.30am and set off in the Dragon which is already working because it heats the surfacing material on the way to the first job so that it is ready when they get there.

“Each day the crew is given an area to visit and they carry out inspections, filling holes as they go. It’s quite impressive to look back on a stretch of road that only an hour or so ago was in a poor state to see that all the holes are filled and looking quite tidy.”

The Dragon can also carry out preventative work by sealing cracks in the road surface that would otherwise let in water and eventually turn into more potholes.

In the past year the council’s own machine, along with the shared Dragon, has fixed over 21,000 potholes. It is expected that the new one, over the next twelve months, could fill up to 14,000 more.


Skilled work is appreciated

Anyone who works as part of the Dragon team needs to be multi-skilled. All crew members have a background in traditional road repairs and are well used to finding their way round Oxfordshire in all types of weather. They also have to be able to operate quite a technical machine safely and, in the event of a breakdown, diagnose the problem and possibly carry out a repair.

“The teams are small – usually just two people – but very skilled and experienced,” says Mac, “They can do everything from inspecting road conditions and filling potholes to replacing spare parts so that no time is wasted if there is a problem.

“They also build up a good knowledge of the areas they work in and appreciate the beauty of rural Oxfordshire and its communities. The reaction they get when people see them doing their job is quite positive.”

Report problems that you find

The Dragon’s workload is based on information picked up by the county council’s road inspections and problems that have been reported online via Fix My Street.

You can report a range of problems from potholes to damaged signs via https://fixmystreet.oxfordshire.gov.uk/

Every report is investigated and repairs ordered where necessary. Things that you report on rural roads could lead to a visit from the Dragon, although teams using more conventional repair methods also carry out work depending on what is required.