Shortage of experts could see Essex road improvements delays

Felixstowe is set for weeks of roadworks Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Hopes of road upgrades across Essex could be delayed - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Road improvements in Essex are likely to be delayed due to eastern European workers leaving for major projects like HS2, a council officer has said.

Vicky Presland, Head of Design Services, Essex Highways, said it was a struggle to hire new workers to improve roads after many of their former experts from eastern Europe and Poland left.

She told told a meeting of Essex County Council’s Place Services and Economic Growth that the shortage of engineers means that a rise of £7.2million of capital funding for Local Highways Panels (LHP) – £200,000 more for each panel, each year, for the next three years – has not been fully utilised.

The panels across Essex make recommendations for improvements such as traffic signalling, crossing facilities and road safety schemes such as altering junction layouts.

Miss Presland said: “We were reliant on some of the eastern European countries. I’ve got a very culturally diverse team.

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“I did have a lot of Polish workers and Polish designers. I haven’t got them in the quantity that I used to have and you’ve got schemes like HS2 where they’re out to adverts for a thousand engineers at the moment.

“There are just not enough engineering staff to go around at the moment.

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“So I know the lorry drivers and staff shortages are hitting headlines but it is the same in the engineering world at moment.

“Some of the roles that are out on the website, we’re not even getting any applicants for. So as a consequence of that is we will struggle to deliver that kind of increase in the LHP budget.”

The lack of engineers means that much of the budget allocated over the next three years cannot be spent – which could include safety improvements.

Councillor Lee Scordis said Brexit has had a huge impact. He said: “In that time we have not trained enough engineers as a country as well."

An Essex Highways spokesperson said: “There is a challenge around recruiting across the industry at the moment, mainly because of the buoyancy of the civil engineering sector in the south east with projects like HS2 ramping up and taking on a lot of engineering staff."

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