Highway Maintenance Operational Plan

Read our Highway Maintenance Operational Plan (HMOP), find out why we have changed our approach and what this means.

As the local highway authority, Suffolk County Council has to fulfil a number of statutory duties including the duty to maintain the public highway to enable the safe passage of highway users.

Suffolk Highways delivers the highway maintenance function on behalf of Suffolk County Council.

Our Highway Maintenance Operational Plan (HMOP) (PDF, 1,950KB) sets out the standards that Suffolk Highways will meet for safety inspections and reactive maintenance (works that have been triggered by defects or safety concerns such as potholes).

The HMOP is aimed at the inspection team and others within Suffolk Highways, to provide the standards and methodology to use when maintaining the county’s highways.

Our staff use the Suffolk Highways Defect Response Matrices (PDF, 769KB) to identify whether repairs are necessary for different types of highway defect, and the timescales for completing repairs.  Browse the document to see the categories of damage and respective timescales for repair, for each type of defect.

Click each of the sections below to read more about the Highway Maintenance Operational Plan.

National recommendations for the provision of highways maintenance services have changed. A new Code of Practice entitled "Well-Managed Highway Infrastructure (WMHI)" was published on 28 October 2016. The new Code of Practice can be found on UK Roads Liaison Group.

This Code of Practice encourages highway authorities to develop a locally determined risk-based approach to highway maintenance that fits with the asset management approach recommended by central government.

Visit the highways asset management webpage to read more about the approach in Suffolk. 

This Highway Maintenance Operational Plan represents Suffolk Highways’ interpretation of how the local highways maintenance service should be provided to meet the County Council’s statutory duties and the national recommendations.

Adopting a risk-based approach to reactive maintenance, means that the prioritisation of the defect will depend on the level of risk that it poses. For example, a deep 400mm diameter pothole on a 60mph A Road would represent a greater risk than that posed by a similar sized pothole in a residential cul-de-sac.

As it is not possible for works to be carried out everywhere at the same time, repairs need to be prioritised. Suffolk Highways will give higher priority to busier roads and footways, where there is a greater chance of the defect causing a problem, and lower priority to defects on quieter roads. As a result, Suffolk Highways’ approach links a category of defect to a specific timescale for repairs – as set out in the following table:

HMOP categories and timescales

Suffolk Highways uses the location (severity) and size (likelihood) of the defect to determine risk. A set of matrices (PDF, 1.5MB) have been produced that show the response time for different types of defects at different locations within the highway network. Further details of these can be found in the full HMOP document.

This approach to maintaining the highways means that you should see us being more proactive - identifying defects, such as potholes, when they are smaller and tackling them at an earlier stage to prevent them getting worse.

By grouping smaller defects with larger, higher priority defects these will be treated earlier. If it is not possible to repair these on the first visit, defects in the same location will be repaired in a single return visit.

Over time, the earlier identification and repair of smaller defects will reduce the number of occasions where these expand to become large defects, reducing the risk and improving safety on Suffolk’s roads.

You can download and read the Highway Maintenance Operational Plan (HMOP)  (PDF, 1,950KB).

The Highways Maintenance Operational Plan has been developed alongside a suite of Highway Infrastructure Asset Management documents which can be found on the Highway Infrastructure Asset Management page on this website.   

Local highway authorities are under a duty to maintain public highways to enable safe passage of highway users by virtue of Section 41 of the Highways Act 1980. This includes the duty, so far as is reasonably practicable, that safe passage along a highway is not endangered by snow and ice.

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease in the UK, Suffolk Highways reviewed its critical services that support these duties.  The main key concerns are:

  • Reactive defect repairs
  • Statutory inspections
  • Winter service
  • Maintaining resource levels
  • Initiating the key government guidelines for Covid-19 within the service
  • Delivering the current service levels

It was decided the best course of action would be to implement 3 changes to the operational delivery of our reactive service under phase 1. This approach enabled Suffolk Highways to be flexible and adopt additional phases should resource levels become critical.

Phase 1:

Change 1: Increase the CAT 5 response from 20 working days to 40 working days (equivalent of 8 weeks) and to increase CAT 6 response from 14 weeks to 28 weeks (equivalent of 6 months) across all matrices. If we could slow down the number of defects requiring repair, it  would enable a focus on those urgent defects and managing resources effectively.

Change 2: Prior to this plan coming into effect, the HMOP was under review to streamline and simplify the existing matrices and align them with the carriageway matrices which were developed during the Matrix T trial that took place between October 2018 and April 2019, leading to the creation of Highway Maintenance Operational Plan version 2 (15 July 2019 to 18 March 2020) (PDF, 1.9MB) and Covid-19 Highway Maintenance Operational Plan Matrices Phase 1, (19 March 2020 to 16 May 2021) ((PDF, 2.4MB).

Consequently, Suffolk Highways "fast tracked" two footway matrices to include these into phase 1 of Suffolk Highways’ mitigation measures. Both matrices follow the same principles adopted during the completion of the Matrix T trial. The dimensions have been set as the minimum of 100mm and the response rates amended to reflect these changes.

Change 3: Driven routine inspections are normally carried out with a driver and an inspector.  Following on from the social distancing guidelines set out by central government it is not possible to undertake this duty whilst maintaining 2m distances. It was therefore decided that for now inspections would be undertaken on a solo basis.

Suffolk Highways is continually monitoring the status of the Covid-19 outbreak and the impact this may have on the service.