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Roadwork co-ordination "dramatically improved" council claims

PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:00 30 March 2019

Better co-ordination between Suffolk Highways and Highways England aims to reduce the impact on motorists. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Better co-ordination between Suffolk Highways and Highways England aims to reduce the impact on motorists. Picture: GREGG BROWN

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Co-ordination between highways organisations in Suffolk has "dramatically improved" since December, according to roads chiefs.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for highways Mary Evans said communication had Suffolk County Council cabinet member for highways Mary Evans said communication had "dramatically improved". Picture: GREGG BROWN

Highways England, which manages the ‘strategic road network’ – key routes such as the A14 and the A12 – is required to alert Suffolk Highways when it is closing roads for works that will divert traffic onto the routes managed by the council.

A report prepared for March’s full council meeting revealed that Highways England had only alerted Suffolk Highways at “relatively short notice” for planned work.

It prompted highways cabinet member Mary Evans to open talks last summer to improve their communication, resulting in a series of changes since December.

Now, communication has “dramatically improved” she said, in a bid to ease the disruption on motorists.

Labour transport spokesman Jack Owen said he had received complaints from motorists hampered by diversions. Picture: SUFFOLK LABOUR GROUPLabour transport spokesman Jack Owen said he had received complaints from motorists hampered by diversions. Picture: SUFFOLK LABOUR GROUP

“At heart all that has happened is that Highways England has dramatically improved the way it communicates with us,” she said.

“I feel they now trust us to react constructively to their proposals because we have scored some successes where, with local knowledge, we have been able to show them that their diversion plans wouldn’t work well but, more importantly, how with a simple modification they could make them work.

“It is now much more of a two-way conversation. They come to us early on in their planning process and we can check for example whether the planned diversion would impact on a major local event.”

Among some of the changes have been a commitment to hold quarterly meetings outlining planned works and clarifying arrangements for where each authority manages.

The council’s report said that Highways England was also planning a reorganisation of its project management teams to improve communication.

A Highways England spokesman said: “We have a strong working relationship with our colleagues at Suffolk County Council and look forward to working together at all levels over the next few years.

“It is important that we engage with and listen to all our stakeholders so that wherever possible we can provide greater value for money to deliver road improvements in the region quickly and efficiently.”

Councillor Jack Owen, Labour group spokesman for highways at the county council said he had encountered many motorists who had complained about poor diversion routes because of a lack of planning.

“The greatest frustration is caused by delays as a result of road closures and random diversions being in place days prior to any work commencing, and also remaining in place over weekends and at periods when no work is being carried out,” he said.

“It is clear that many diversions seem to be devised without any local knowledge or wisdom; what may be necessary for an HGV is not necessary for cars.

“We are obviously pleased to hear that Highways England will be ending the contracting out of their project management, but that won’t be until the autumn.

“We know changes like this cause chaos, so Suffolk’s road users can look forward to at least another year of random traffic jams for no obvious reason.

“The actions announced by SCC amount to nothing more than a resigned shrug of the shoulders. One-off meetings with council officers or a parish council are not going to solve the issue of communicating traffic diversions.”

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