Enter the dragon (patcher)

A fire-breathing ‘dragon’ is the latest weapon being used to slay potholes in Somerset.

Somerset County Council and its highways contractor Skanska are committed to using new equipment and techniques to reduce costs and improve services.

The dragon patcher – so called because it uses flames to dry and heat the road surface – is currently on trial in Somerset.

It is claimed to be five times faster than a traditional patching gang and can be controlled by one operator. As well as simply filling potholes, it can also be used to treat sections of road with cracks or minor deterioration to prevent potholes forming in future.

First, is uses the flames to dry and heat the road surface. Then it sprays hot bitumen and layers of stone directly into the defect. It can also clean and sweep the road.

Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “Somerset has a long association with dragons and wyverns but I’m pretty confident this is the first time a dragon has been used in the county for road maintenance purposes.

“It’s certainly an impressive piece of kit – it moves along the road rapidly and also gives us another option by treating roads to stop potholes forming.

“We now need to keep a close eye on the repairs and see how they compare with traditional techniques in offering the best solution for Somerset taxpayers.”

The dragon patcher was used at a range of different urban and rural sites across Somerset which will now be carefully monitored. If judged a success, it is likely the dragon will return for another longer trial next year.

Somerset County Council currently prioritises preventative measures to tackle potholes and prevent them forming. As a direct result of this policy, the number of potholes requiring attention fell from 27,479 in 2010 to 19,717 in 2016.

The new highways maintenance contract with Skanska which began in April 2017 also includes a contractual commitment for a reduction in the number of potholes over the length of the contract.

If you spot a pothole, please report it via the Drive section at www.travelsomerset.co.uk so we can inspect and take appropriate action. You can also stay up to date on roadworks and traffic conditions by following @TravelSomerset on Twitter.