The County Council coordinates works in order to minimise unnecessary disruption. Schemes are combined and road closures shared wherever possible. Where this is not possible dates are changed in order to minimise conflicts.
Where the County Council undertakes major resurfacing works utility companies are invited to undertake any repairs they need to make before the resurfacing work is done. The new surface is usually then protected using specific legislation to prevent further excavations for up to five years. Emergency works and connections to new or existing customers are allowed.
Apart from their obvious use for transport, the highways (roads, footways and verges) serve as conduits for vital utility supplies (gas, water, electricity and telecommunications).
The highways and the cables and pipes beneath them require maintenance and repairs from time to time. On Hampshire’s highways every year approximately 100,000 holes are dug and maintenance work are undertaken to ensure that the highways and utility pipes and cables continue to provide the service which they were designed for.
Inevitably these works cause some disruption, but we try to coordinate works to minimise disruption as much as possible.
The County Council convenes annual and quarterly coordination meetings with all utility companies to share details of major works schemes planned for the coming year. These meetings identify possible opportunities to minimise disruption to traffic, businesses and residents. This might be by combining schemes, sharing road closures or identifying locations which will benefit from night working or weekend working. (Although night work is usually avoided in residential areas).
We also identify locations where both the utility companies and the County Council need to undertake major projects. Where such locations are identified the County Councils works are usually programmed to be done after the utility works to minimise the risk of a new road surface being excavated. To further protect a newly surfaced road the County Council uses specific legislation that can stop anyone else from digging in the road for up to 5 years.
A further, and significant proportion of utility and County Council work sites, (approximately 80,000 year) are of an urgent/emergency nature or are minor works needed to undertake spot repairs. In addition, occasionally a new major scheme may suddenly arise as a result of priorities changing because of new evidence arising or changes to budgets.
The County Council does its best to coordinate such works, but because these works are only identified at relatively short notice, or they are of an emergency nature, the options for rescheduling them are very limited or non-existent.
The County Council is also unable to prevent excavations in newly surfaced roads for the purposes of emergency works, or where a utility company needs to repair their apparatus to ensure supply, or install a new supply to a customer.
The most disruptive kinds of works on the road are usually those that require a road closure or the use of portable traffic lights. Such traffic control measures are only used when absolutely necessary, usually for the safety of the workforce, traffic and pedestrians.
Where road closures are required we ask the contractor to inform all of the properties affected in order to advise them of what arrangements are being made for access. Diversion routes are also set up and these must be designed to cater for all traffic types. Accordingly lengthly diversion routes are sometimes necessary, for example, to avoid low bridges or roads with other restrictions.
When works require the use of portable traffic lights there is nothing more frustrating than sitting in a queue of traffic on one side of the lights whilst there is no queue on the other side. To minimise this risk the use of portable traffic lights is restricted to outside of peak traffic times on main roads where possible. Where this is not possible, the County Council requires all contractors to manually operate portable lights at peak traffic times on main roads. Manual operation means that the operator can adjust the timing of the lights if traffic builds up too much in one direction.
If you have any queries regarding the process the County Council uses to coordinate works, or have any suggestions or comments for improving these processes, please contact us.