A “FIRE-BREATHING” road repair vehicle carried out resurfacing work in Henley.
The 18-tonne unit, known as the “dragon patcher” because it has an articulated arm which shoots out a jet of flame, spent several hours fixing a parking area off Clements Road which was covered in potholes.
The work would have taken about three days using a works gang.
Skanska, Oxfordshire County Council’s highways contractor, bought the vehicle a year ago and has been using it to repair large uneven areas of road where the potholes are still fairly shallow.
The patcher is manned by two people, one of whom operates the machine while the other follows behind it to level out the freshly-laid surface with hand tools.
The arm is connected to a gas supply and fires a hot blast which evaporates water and ice on the road surface, burns off any dirt and melts the tarmac slightly to make it softer and more adhesive.
It then fires a high-pressure stream of hot gravel and bitumen at the ground through a separate nozzle and the second crewman levels it off.
Finally, the vehicle drives over the new surface several times to compact it using two rollers behind its rear wheels.
The machine cannot be used for deeper potholes, which still require a gang. However, where it can be used it only costs £10 to fill each hole as opposed to about £70.
Henley county councillor David Nimmo Smith said: “This area of Clements Road has relatively little structural damage so wouldn’t normally meet the criteria for taking action.
“However, we’re able to do something because the dragon patcher allows us to quickly resurface it without stripping it back first.
“Deep potholes still generally require gangs but this means we can address a wider range of problems.
“It is far more efficient and economic so it’s also less intrusive and disruptive to the travelling public. It gives us a lot more bang for our buck.
“We have one patcher at the moment, which covers the whole county, and are thinking of getting more but would have to budget for it as it’s quite costly equipment. Our aim is to get as many potholes filled as we can before winter so that the roads are in the best possible condition.
“I think people will be pleased to see that we can deal with them more effectively.”
Henley Mayor Julian Brookes said: “I’m very happy to see it improving road surfaces in Henley and would encourage residents to report all road defects on the Fix My Street website because that’s how the county council assesses demand.
“I look forward to seeing the dragon patcher in Henley again soon.”