Roadworks are one of those things that we all grudgingly accept on our roads. But a new report shows that more than nine in ten of these roadworks are delayed and a chief cause of the delays is blundering local councils.

Misfiring roadwork plans

Official figures have been published that show the extent of disruption around the UK caused by roadworks that take longer than they are planned. Drivers across England and Wales suffer from the equivalent of 128 years (or 47,000 days) of overrun roadworks every month.

And at the heart of the problem is councils and utility firms who start work but then don’t finish it on time for various reasons. In some cases, the projects are planned for days and end up running for weeks, causing massive disruption to drivers.

The government has already had a crackdown on utility companies to ensure that they are more organised and punctual with their roadwork plans. But the report shows that it is local councils that are behind many of the problems leading AA president, Edmund King, to accuse them of ‘taking their eye off the ball.’

Shocking figures

The England and Wales Performance Scorecard, compiled by the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee, looked at a range of details about roadworks. Some of the most shocking figures to come from it included that road repairs carried out by local councils or their contractors were three times more likely to overrun. This is compared to work done by energy, water or telecoms companies.

Another problem is that workmen working for the local councils are often less likely to repair the road surface after the work is done to the required specifications. On roads already suffering from huge pothole problems, this simply adds more frustration for drivers.

An example being the roadworks carried out between April to July 2017. These lasted for 4.2 million days or 68% of the total roadworks carried out. But they were responsible for 132,000 overrun days or 94% of the total delays.

Compared with this was utility forms who carried out 1,965,000 days of roadworks which were equivalent to 32% of the roadworks. And they were responsible for just 9,000 overrun days.

Work carried out

Local councils tend to carry out a variety of work on the road including resurface and filling in potholes. They also are responsible for changing road layouts and adding ‘traffic calming’ measures such as speed bumps. These projects can be more prone to delays than other types of projects which can cover some of the overrun days.

Utility companies are more likely to dig up roads to repair infrastructures such as water mains or gas pipes. Or they may open roads to lay new pipes or to upgrade broadband infrastructure.

Examples of the problem

There are plenty of examples of the problems caused by overrun roadworks and the chaos they can cause. The A3 near Guildford saw one lane closed at the beginning of May when roadworks overrun, and a contractor vehicle then broke down. The problem led to drivers having a delay of 55 minutes on their morning journey as an exit slip road was also closed for roadworks.

Another example of chaos came from the M4 in mid-April. The motorway was closed westbound after roadworks took longer than expected. When they were due to open at 6am, a resurfacing lorry then broke down, causing major delays. To make things worse, mild temperatures meant the road surface wasn’t ready for use. To add to the misery, an accident with a car and lorry then made the situation even worse for drivers.

Adding to the problem

The problem of overrunning roadworks has a knock-on effect towards dealing with another huge problem drivers are facing around the UK – the problem of potholes. The harsh winter, including the infamous ‘Beast from the East’ weather front, has caused the problem to worsen dramatically and local councils are already struggling to deal with it.

According to the RAC, the period from January to March this year saw a 2.3% increase in the number of call-outs associated with pothole damage including broken suspension springs, damaged shock absorbers and distorted wheels. This is double the rate for the previous three months and equated to over 5,500 cases.

The problem led to the government allocating an extra £100 million for councils at the end of March. But if the local councils are having so many problems with projects overrunning, the question has to be – can they get around to fixing the potholes, even with the extra money?

Necessary evil

There’s no doubt that roadworks are a necessary evil that is crucial in keeping the road network operating. But as the AA’s Mr King pointed out, delayed roadworks waste time, money and test the patience of drivers. And while utility companies have traditionally been blamed for the problem, these new figures show that a greater problem lies with the local councils.

A Local Government Association spokesman said that councils tend to do ‘longer-term roadworks’ that are more likely to overrun and claim that comparing data with private companies is misleading.

Have you ever suffered due to overrunning roadworks? Was it due to a utility company or a local council project? Let us know in the comments below

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