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, 728KB) 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, 2.3MB) 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.

Pothole trial Phoenix House Service Delivery Centre – October 2018 to March 2019.

A review of highway maintenance in Suffolk was launched in June 2018 with the creation of a Highways Improvement and Innovations Board (HIIAB), lead by Councillor Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs.

One of the areas being reviewed is the existing policy which determines how defects are identified and resources deployed, known as the Highways Maintenance Operational Plan (HMOP). 

The HIIAB’s ambition is to deliver an improved HMOP pothole matrix that:

  • enables a better understanding of what size potholes will be repaired and how long it will take us to repair them once they have been inspected
  • reduces the number of defect categories (repair timescales) in a particular road
  • supports the repair of more defects on one road in a single visit
  • reduces the complication of the matrix to improve understanding and communication of our maintenance strategy

The review delivered an alternative Carriageway Defects - Matrix T shown below.  The matrix allows two categories (repair timescales) for each road type, giving an urgent and non-urgent response time.  The matrix also better formalises the need for us to identify defects at 200mm diameter when compared to the current Pothole Matrix C that details 400mm with an option for smaller defects to be identified. 

 Pothole Trail


A trial of the alternative Carriageway Matrix T has commenced and will be used by highway staff that operate from our Phoenix House Service Delivery Centre which covers the Mid Suffolk and Babergh areas of Suffolk.

Suffolk Highways will look at operational performance data to see if an increase in productive time and decrease in travel time for our operational teams is seen along with feedback from our staff to understand how the changes made in the trial support better programming of site visits.

We will compare the results of the trial in Phoenix House with data gathered in our Rougham and Halesworth Service Delivery Centres, which are continuing to use the existing pothole matrix C, as well as feedback from Councillors, town and parish councils on their perception on the impact of the trial.


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 (PDF, 1.9MB).

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.