Suffolk’s roads improving – but contractors still need to improve

Cabinet member James Finch.

Cabinet member James Finch. - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Road maintenance in Suffolk is getting better – but more work needs to be done to speed up improvements according to a new report to councillors.

Earlier this year the county council’s scrutiny committee looked at how the road maintenance contract with civil engineering giant Kier was working and expressed serious concerns about the difficulty it was facing in achieving many performance targets.

Next Thursday’s meeting of the committee will have another chance to examine the contract – and a report prepared for officers by members gives a mixed view on progress.

It says: “Good progress has been made by the county council and Kier in some areas but that this is a process of continuous improvement and further work is needed in order to accelerate progress.”

One area that has shown some improvement is the number of occasions when roadworks requiring temporary traffic lights have seen work over-run.

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Between December last year and March this year it was 7% or 8% of times – over recent months it has been down to none or, at worst, 1%.

The committee will also hear that the council is hoping to introduce a permit system for utilities that want to carry out non-emergency work on the county’s roads, in a bid to ensure that the same section of road is not dug up on different occasions by different bodies when they could all be done at the same time.

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However that is not likely to be introduced until later next year at the earliest.

Cabinet member for transport James Finch said: “I am pleased that we seem to have worked through some of the previous concerns with the Suffolk Highways contract and we are moving together in the right direction.

“There is now greater focus and direction in the way we prioritise and undertake highways works. We appreciate that there is still some more to do and are not complacent.”

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