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Lessons learned from tough winter which has left scores of road defects, says Suffolk highways

PUBLISHED: 17:37 01 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:07 01 May 2018

The 'Beast from the East' and a demanding winter left Suffolk highways teams struggling to meet demand.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The 'Beast from the East' and a demanding winter left Suffolk highways teams struggling to meet demand. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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Suffolk County Council's highways team has said it has learned lessons from a busy winter which has had a significant impact on the county's roads.

Figures compiled for the county council’s scrutiny committee on Tuesday revealed that gritters had made 188 runs this winter – nearly twice the 102 runs in 2016/17.

Highways representatives said it meant the team was forced to dip into the department’s reserves, and the cycle of water freezing and thawing had opened up scores of potholes on road surfaces.

Teams have had to prioritise urgent repairs on dangerous potholes which has put its maintenance programme behind schedule.

Mark Stevens, assistant director operational highways, said: “Due to the intensity of this winter the roads are not in good shape which has put us under extreme pressure. Our priority is to make the network safe, not make it look pretty.”

Mr Stevens said that strict budgets meant the team only had around 30% of the cash needed to carry out maintenance on the defects across the entirety of the county’s roads, which meant dangerous issues were important.

To tackle the problem, six new teams have been out on the roads carrying out repairs, while a new mobile asphalt plant on the back of a truck has been trialled to help reduce the time it takes to fix potholes.

Following the busy winter, which meant more staff were needed on gritting runs and therefore weren’t available as much during the day for their normal roles, the team has said lessons have been learnt to take into this winter.

The team has vowed to look at additional gritting staff to put less pressure on those who regularly make the runs, understanding why some gritting bins were not full and having a greater level of preparation earlier alongside partner agencies such as police.

Other lessons for the communications teams included making sure that everyone on the Suffolk border could access vital information such as school closures and travel updates easily, and making sure schools were aware of who to call and when.

Mr Stevens said: “We showed tremendous resilience and we did pull together as one team.

“In that respect I am really proud of what everyone has done.”

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