Suffolk: County had ‘lucky escape’ from potholes during very mild winter
12:00 10 May 2014
This year’s mild winter was all that saved Suffolk from widespread road chaos after the county council transferred its road maintenance to an outside contractor.
That’s the claim of a former county road maintenance worker who moved on after Kier MG took over the contract at the start of October last year.
He had worked for the county council for more than a decade, and although he now works for another business in the county he still keeps in touch with former colleagues who now work with the new contractors.
He said changes to operating procedures meant that less work was now being done, and feared that if Suffolk had suffered another cold winter the new contractors would have been totally unable to cope with the number of potholes that were created.
“Until October we were going out as two person crews and using two tonnes of tarmac a day filling in potholes to keep up with the problem.
“Now they are going out with one tonne – and are often bringing half of it back because they don’t have the time to do any more work.
“The teams are having to spend so much time filling in forms and on bureaucracy that they don’t have enough time out on the road.
“To be honest we’ve been very lucky we haven’t had another cold winter. It’s frost, snow and ice that causes potholes and we had very little of that this year. If it had been like previous winters, we’d have been in big trouble.”
Although road maintenance is carried out by Kier MG, it is still managed by Suffolk County Council.
Cabinet member for transport, Graham Newman, said: “It is evident from the recent unremitting wet winter that there have been problems with the roads across the country, for all highways authorities and their contractors.
“This is exactly why the government has allocated extra road maintenance and flood damage money, as well as setting up a pothole challenge fund.
“Despite the perception of a relatively mild winter we still had to respond to freezing temperatures with just under 60 gritting runs.
“To ensure our workers are as safe as they can be while working on the roads, we and our contractors have to make sure that the risks of working out on site are understood and precautions properly adhered to.”