Last week; we brought you the first part of our EXCLUSIVE interview with Mr. Pothole himself – Mark Morrell. Our profile on Mark provided our readers with unique insight into a number of subjects surrounding the Mr. Pothole campaign; including its roots, how it all took off and the influence that social media has had on it as a success story.
We were able to provide you with a truly unique insight into how the Mr. Pothole campaign has taken shape; and how it has played a huge part in Mark’s life over the past year. This week we can officially bring you the second part of the interview.
Within it; Mark discusses a number of exciting topics – all providing new perspective into the story behind his campaign. The progression of the campaign, the part the media has played within it and the Mark’s plans for the future are all covered in the remainder of this fascinating interview…
‘A Great Deal of Sympathy for Cyclists’
Mark carries on where we left off: ‘You can’t argue with the photographic evidence – these days everyone’s a journalist’, he says; in reference to new methods of reporting potholes and holding councils accountable for road repairs that drastically need carrying out. Getting the public on board with these new methods is essential with relation to the campaign being a success.
Mark’s main thoughts behind the Mr. Pothole campaign surround the fact that he simply wants to help the public in this country get better roads. He does the work for all types of road users; and was quick to highlight the plight of cyclists: ‘I got involved and saw that cyclists are really, really vulnerable’, he says. ‘People say that they (cyclists) should see the potholes, but for that you’d (cyclists) have to swerve out into the road. I’ve a great deal of sympathy for cyclists’.
As he discussed in the first part of the interview; a big part of his campaign was to improve the means of pothole reporting; whilst holding those responsible accountable: ‘I’ve gone across every council reporting’, Mark enthuses. ‘Some systems are really good. Others like were saying its (potholes) been fixed when it hadn’t. If it needed major work they would close it off the system and hand it over to major works –but they don’t say this.’
Is Repair Work Actually Happening?
In a similar vein; Mark tells me that through talking to bikers he came across the British Bikers Association campaign. The chairman owned a system that Mark told him needed changing. The chairman was going to take it down, but Mark worked with him to develop a new system – Street Repairs:
‘I helped with the design of the new system and came up with Street Repairs’, he says. ‘The name of Mr. Pothole was attached; and the beauty of the system is that you can upload a photo; then, once it is published it can be compared with street view’, he says. This resultantly means that the uploaded photo can be compared to street view photographs to see if scheduled work that is supposed to be carried out is actually happening.
Mark continues – in reference to the newly designed system: ‘It’s been used successfully in claims. The authorities don’t like it. It’s completely transparent. You can nominate to publish a report through social media – Street Repairs has over six and a half thousand followers on Facebook; and 620,000 people were recorded as seeing one post’. That sort of exposure is huge for the campaign.
As with Street Repairs; Mark has found that his ‘Mr. Pothole’ name brand now carries serious weight: ‘The media have taken me to heart – I make a statement that they can back.’ he says. ‘The Mr. Pothole tag gives more credibility to any stories. People are giving my name as a backing to certain issues and campaigns’.
The public and the press really have taken Mark to heart. His no-nonsense approach has been a breath of fresh air with relation to a problem that has plagued the UK for years. After a recent appearance in the Channel 5 documentary – Fix Pothole Britain – he was described by a producer as a Politian’s ‘worst nightmare’. This was backed up by an appearance on Sky News in March; where Mark was given the opportunity to question The Secretary of State for Transport – Patrick McLoughlin. His questions on why there is such a distinct lack of funding to fix potholes were pretty much avoided; whilst blame was shifted onto local councils.
The appearance on Sky means that Mark has now appeared on three of the key national broadcaster’s channels (BBC and ITV are the others). His most notable public appearance however, was perhaps when he took his campaign around the streets of Westminster, London – by tank – to promote awareness of the current state of UK roads: ‘The tank was supplied through the guy that supplied for Top Gear and the movie Fast and Furious 6,’ Mark remembers fondly. ‘He believed in the campaign and gave it to me for half price. I planned it myself.’
1st Anniversary on 18th May
The campaign reached its year anniversary on 18th May, and Mark admits he could never have imagined a small Facebook group turning into a national phenomenon encompassing Sky News and tanks: ‘It was my hobby. Where other people have fishing; I have potholes,’ Mark tells me. ‘I’m lucky to be retired and on a reasonable pension. I’m busy. Including the work I do with the Royal British Legion, and more recently a Town Councillor it’s more than a full-time job.
‘One day happens in to the next. I could be set for a day off with the wife; then the next thing crops up with the media about radio interviews or filming,’ he continues. Despite the considerable time involvement though, Mark remains passionate about what he does: ‘I’m so pleased to see the difference it’s making. I can help in ways other than on camera too’, he says, referring to work he has done to help people make successful claims after being affected by potholes.
‘I never set up initially to help people with claims, but now I offer advice,’ he says. ‘People come to me and use Mr. Pothole. About 5 percent of claims that need compensation get the money. The rest are unsuccessful or are put off due to ongoing costs. A reasonable basic car claim could be 70 to 90 pounds. People just accept it as they thing it’s not worth pursuing. They have got busy lives – I’ve just tried to help them make it as easy as possible to claim. A simple thanks or acknowledgement is huge to me. Someone recently got back 1300 pounds. That’s a good day for me,’ he continues. So what’s next for Mark?
‘Every Penny Has Been Worth It’
‘I’ve recently become a local town councilor after becoming a pain in the back for the local county council,’ he recalls. ‘The next target though for me then is the next election. I’m only interested in endorsements not sponsorships. It’s important that people know I’m not doing this for the money. It’s cost me in excess of 2,000 pounds of my own money so far; but you can’t buy the satisfaction it’s brought – every penny has been worth it.
‘I’m lucky to be retired and have to time to takes things on,’ he continues. ‘If it all ended tomorrow there have been thousands of potholes repaired, 20 major road works done and hundreds of people who’ve been awarded compensation or have recovered money because of the campaign. You couldn’t buy this experience; it’s been amazing’.
Mark estimates that there are now 6 million more vehicles on the roads in the UK than ten years ago; all paying fuel tax and VAT: ‘That’s 25 billion pounds more funding that’s now generated compared to 2000,’ Mark finishes. That figure highlights exactly why Mark does the work he does. The public want to know how with such increased revenue being brought in by the government; why is the situation of roads in this country getting worse?
As you know; we’re particularly interested in anything to do with cycling safety at the Wheelie Good Guys. If you have unfortunately had a cycle accident and want some advice, please call our kind sponsor Ian at Wosskow Brown on 0114 2564770 or 07711939333. Ian is the Cycle Speedway Commissioner for Yorkshire, as well as being a personal injury solicitor with Wosskow Brown.
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