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Suffolk Highways to hold talks with utility firms over length of road closures

PUBLISHED: 07:30 20 December 2018 | UPDATED: 08:59 20 December 2018

Roadworks on Woodbridge Road caused frustration for motorists, homes and businesses in 2017  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Roadworks on Woodbridge Road caused frustration for motorists, homes and businesses in 2017 Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Suffolk’s highways chief has vowed to bring traffic management firms and utility companies in for talks over the length of time they spend closing roads.

Mary Evans plans to hold talks with utility firms over the length of road closures in Suffolk Picture: GREGG BROWNMary Evans plans to hold talks with utility firms over the length of road closures in Suffolk Picture: GREGG BROWN

Conservative councillor Mary Evans, deputy county council leader and cabinet member for highways, said more than 50% of the county’s road closures were for utility work.

At the county council’s scrutiny meeting on Wednesday, December 19, Mrs Evans said: “I now think we need the utilities in to talk to them seriously about how long they are on the road.

“One of the things we are going to do is get the traffic management companies in to talk about the way they can carry out traffic management and make sure diversions are better signed.”

She added: “It has been an issue this summer, particularly those days where nothing was happening.

“We want to work with them to make sure they are only there for the minimum length of time, the diversions are clear to the public and if there is anything wrong they all know who to go to.”

Mark Stevens, assistant director operational highways, said that because of the number of firms needing to book highway works, utility companies such as gas, water and electricity would often book longer than needed.

The highways network assurance team co-ordinates road closures, including for highways contractors for road maintenance and utility firms.

Liberal Democrat councillor John Field said: “The impression one gets is the authority closes roads with little regard to communities. I had a contractor tell me recently he was discouraged from telling the community [it was doing work].”

For firms which fail to carry out the work in the specified time frame without extensions being granted, or who leave barriers or equipment by the roadside, fines can be issued, which Mrs Evans said paid for road closures for ceremonies such as parades, carnivals and other civic events.

A permit scheme is also being investigated which would allow more stringent penalties for firms which do not adhere to their timescales, and require all utility companies to apply for a permit.

Transport secretary Chris Grayling wrote to the council in July urging it to adopt the format, just two years after the council rejected the format put forward by the Labour group.

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