Enter the dragon (patchers): More fire-breathing machines to fix potholes on Devon roads

More fire-breathing ‘dragon patcher’ machines are set to be let loose on Devon roads in a bid to tackle potholes – with Exeter earmarked for a further tests. 

The specialist pieces of kit are named so because they use flames to help remedy the highways defects, in cold or wet weather, in just two minutes.

They dry out the road, then clean the surface with compressed air, before sealing the pothole with a stone mix and hot bitumen emulsion.

A pair of dragon patchers have been successfully trialled in Devon over the last year – and now the county council is looking into ordering more.

A meeting of the authority’s Corporate, Infrastructure and Regulatory Services Scrutiny Committee was asked about the trial.

Meg Booth, Devon County Council’s (DCC) chief officer for highways, said: “We have decided to invest in more Dragon Patchers.

“We are looking at it as a way of resolving the issues on the minor road network.

“We have trialled it and the cost of reactive repairs compared to the cost of using the Dragon Patcher – and the lack of problems occurred on the roads it has been on.

“Some roads had considerable amount of defects prior to it and, 12 months later, very few reports of potholes, and those are not related to the work of the Dragon Patcher.

“The tests have been good and it’s early days yet, but it’s been sufficiently good enough for us to consider ordering more.”

A so-called 'dragon patcher' which can repair a pothole in just two minutes using flames and a bitumen emulsion Picture: Hampshire County Council

A so-called ‘dragon patcher’ which can repair a pothole in just two minutes using flames and a bitumen emulsion Picture: Hampshire County Council

Mrs Booth said the council will trial the dragon patchers on more major roads – with the Middlemoor roundabout in Exeter a possibility for testing.

Her report to the meeting added that, as a result of the wet weather since August, there has been a steady increase in reported potholes – up to 3,395 in December.

She added: “The continued increase in demand, plus the Christmas break, has been a challenge to manage.

“We continue to work with Skanska to prioritise resources to reduce the risk to the travelling public, but despite the current difficulties the number of potholes recorded in 2019 were a third less than recorded in 2018.”

Councillor Alistair Dewhirst, chairman of the committee, said that no-one was ‘talking about potholes’ until the recent month of rain.

He added: “The quality of the repairs is definitely better than it was.”

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