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.’
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?
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
Is ANYONE surprised that local Councils are the MAJOR problem????
All councils can only do one thing correctly and well Ie waste money the are experts at doing just thjat
Let us know your evidence.
How long do you have?
Heres one from Huntingdon. We had the entire town gridlocked one day because a coupel of guys setup temporary lights while they very leisurely painted a 40 (speed limit) on the road. There was already a perfectly serviceable sign, the task itself was just an exercise in wasting money, never mind the scheduling on a weekday afternoon.
Could not agree more. Wokingham Borough Council a prime example. in 2013 Spent 400K on improvements to a local sport centre and now in 2018 they says its not fit for purpose and are knocking the lot down and rebuilding it at a cost of nearly 18Million. Prime example of wasting money
Are utility companies part of the councils?
In some areas, following a Labour Gov suggestion that Councils farm work out to seperate Contractors – thus allowing the Council to concentrate on its core work – those areas are ones where the Council instructs the private contractor to repair a road defect. In other areas the Council has its own Highways repair section that does the job. Each system has its own set of delays built in as if they expect a defect to repair itself before proper repair work is carried out. One major problem is the deceit and lies from a Council in claiming roads are examined for defects on a regular basis and that records are kept.
Not very helpful article! More details and examples of why the extensions over planned times occur which, undoubtedly, they do. Can’t all be blamed on Council vehicle breakdown. My own observations finger the fact that so many roadworks are devoid of active workers for unreasonably long times which begs the question of why roads get cordoned off, often prematurely.
I’m in agreement with this…theres barely 1 worker per mile of roadworks, but l bet ‘we’ are paying for an unchecked 5 on the contractors books.
M62 works around Manchester suffered the incredible lack of workers doing anything for days/weeks on end, then Carillion went under. Since then the job appears to be getting finished in much faster. Don’t know if there is a link but it seems quite a coincidence
Very true, and what has M4 road works got to do with any council. The M4 is sole responsibility of HE
Staines-upon-Thames…roadworks on Town Lane, Stanwell..BIG BIG problem over last 2 months.
Stupid Council decision to raise the height of the ends of roads to pavement level where they join Town Lane ! They did it once..then days later have dug it all up and done it again ! Traffic reduced to single lane, traffic lights, and massive jams at peak hours.
Worse thing though is that there are potholes galore down ALL of Town Lane, yet nothing is being done to fix/repair any of them !
No wonder Spelthorne council is on the verge of bankruptcy. A pure time and money wasting bureaucracy.
Why can’t all road works be carried out over the full 24 hours ? or at least ban temporary traffic lights when No work is being done Motorway road works are often done at night
As with most problems there is no easy single cause.There is no political glory in roadworks so local politicians are not much exercised. Nor is there much career glory or progression for officers languishing in the highways maintenance department. So the officers in that dept are not the sharpest brains in the council. I know that is an oxymoron. The result is that there is no incentive to make sure a proper and speedy job is done and no reward for achievement.
What councils should do is impose tight deadlines on all roadworks whether their works or works by utilities. If works overrun the contractors should be charged very high road rental charges of so much per day. Councils should specify high reinstatement standards and refuse to sign off the works until the standard is achieved. Contractors who can’t or won’t meet the standard should be either removed from the list or refused permission to work on roads. But the sort of tough guy whip cracker needed to enforce that won’t be languishing in the road maintenance dept because they are too bright to be in a dead end job.
Pointless fining; guess who ends up paying?!! But I support your suggestion of getting rid of rogue contractors. Too much back-handing goes on there and not enough objective criteria for engaging them.
Why is fining pointless – it will be the rogue contractors who will be paying the fines?
Spot on Colin – I have also thought this for a long time – ie charging huge amounts to contractors every day they overrun and for their works to be closely monitored. And for the information of an earlier poster, I used to work in a local council in Surrey in the finance department and the money that they wasted was astronomical! Hundreds of pointless trips to needless meetings and masses of untouched paperwork on every desk. Absolutely scandalous.
I have been thinking this for a while, it does make sense from a financial point of view too, the lost time spent in the road works halves, and the benefits they are seeking to make start earlier, so even though the works cost more, the overall effect on the economy is less.
Pothole repair is also an issue, the standard patch job done by councils, as quick and cheap, generally doesnt last, and just gets worn away again in a couple of weeks. The only way to really fix potholes is to re-build the road underneath them.
Absolutely. We have had one in our village that has been filled twice and again is sinking.
The reason pothole repairs don’t last is that they are not carried out correctly in the first place, binging a shovelful of tarmac in a hole then patting it down is not a repair, it needs sealing with pitch so water does not get under the tarmac and lift it out, especially when it freezes. That’s why you see the same pothole reappearing time after time.
HERE BLOODY HERE !!!!!!
These people should be ashamed of their lack of craftsmanship or pride in their skill at making repairs – ONE incident here – 9:15am – Council pick up arrives in my street with road repair tackle on board (WHOO HOO!!!) 09:45, ‘team’ of two still sat in vehicle arduously reading the red top of their choice with standard issue ‘cuppa’ on show – 09:55 second vehicle arrives and a conference takes place – 10:20 engines fire and they all clear off??
So I think, maybe they are repairing one of the really severe problems nearby so no complaints… Not a single scrap of evidence to that effect !!!! It sickens me… with every bang, crash and wallop my car takes … For the love of god fix the bloody roads and do it NOW !!!
Agreed, there is no point in just filling the hole. Most of the repairs I see in Cumbria are repairs to repairs. I’m no fan of BT but a repair done by them 2 years ago was sealed and is still in good nick whereas repairs by CCC done 2 months ago which werent have already failed.
Having experienced a lot of night-time motorway roadworks recently, two observations I could make. Firstly, the carriageways are often bollarded for vast distances (day and night) while only a tiny amount of road is being worked upon. Secondly, the notion of motorway roadworks being finished quickly is a poor joke – I have to *laugh* every time I pass the sign at the side of the M6 that says ‘expect delays until March 2022’. There is keeping motorists informed and there is sheer chutzpah. I totally agree that roadworks should be carried out 24/7 where feasible, but then there’d be the matter of unsociable-hours payments for all the workers, plus the tacit fact that if they finish a job sooner, they may be out of work sooner, whereas if they spin it out nicely, they can keep collecting wages. Call me a cynic, but that’s the story of roadworks all over the world. It’s on a par with the old car factory tactic of purposefully misassembling / breaking something in order to slow down output and rack up overtime earnings.
Very true. If there is one thing you learn working on the highways its you spend 8-9 hours at work but only get to do about 4 hours work if your lucky. Arrive 7 pm for start of shift briefing and your lucky to get out before 11 pm to do any work, by 3 am you need to be packing up in order to be off the road by 4 am, so traffic management can remove the miles of cones used.
You claim lots of examples yet 100% of those given involve vehicle breakdown, hardly evidence of incompetence. You are clearly pandering to the prejudices of many of your readers, who rarely need encouragement to criticise any form of authority.
If you want examples of appalling practice, come to Worcestershire!! The A4440 Worcester Southern “ring road” is full of examples of appalling practice! They have had three goes at the left turn lane at the Whittington roundabout near the M5 and each time made the situation more dangerous and caused more accidents.
Then there was the situation at the Ketch roundabout where two lanes of traffic coming off the roundabout towards Malvern had less than 100yds to merge, resulting in cars in the right hand lane at the roundabout ending up facing oncoming traffic head on!
Until one Cllr. alerted the dept to the problem and posted a video on f/book, the Council were merely going to leave it for months and tackle it as “snagging”!!!
This is just two of numerous examples. They have no clue!!
Chris – a bit harsh I think. The examples given are somewhat stupid but the real issue still remains, and rightly deserves comment regardless of opinions which you see as pure prejudice.
Yes, vehicle breakdowns and accidents happen, so should not be used as an explanationfor overruns, but you fail to miss the overall point.
Roadworks overrun too much and too often. This is down to incompetent council officials and contractors. Contractors bid for, and get awarded, work which they probably know they cannot do on time, but as long as they get the contract, who cares. Certainly, it seems, not the councillors. They probably don’t even notice the roads because they’re off visiting the emaculate twin town in France or Germany.
The potholes in Buckinghamshire are dreadful ,we’ve ruined tyres from potholes. We live in Spain but visit every two years for several months and the last few times we have been the potholes especially around Gerrards Cross have never been fixed,so that’s a period of time over 6years. What do councils do with all the council taxes they charge on these large houses,it is a very affluent area but the roads are disgusting. Do something about it Bucks council please,please!
Oxfordshire likewise. They’ve just resurfaced 100 yard sections of two roads near us, but either side of them there are potholes galore. In fact it’s getting to the stage where the uncategorised country roads are better than the A and B roads. Even the M4 is showing signs of the road surface breaking up.
AA president, Edmund King, statement should read turning a blind eye . That is what you get when the country is
run by Conservative Party and their fellow cronies . Money for old rope A fortune to be made from contractors constantly
bodging potholes etc .
Mr Tuner, I’ve been driving for 53 years & I can assure you that it’s always been the same, regardless of the colour of the political party in power at the time.
I have also been driving 50 years + and I can assure you that the roads in Sussex have never been in such bad state of repair as they are now, The contractors who are supposedly repairing the potholes do such a shoddy job only lasts a few weeks before needing repair again, This was not the case when the council used direct labour.
I’ve been driving for only 50 years & I can assure you that road maintenance has got much, much worse since the pressure by various Conservative governments to outsource. In addition my local council has now been forced to spend £100’s of millions less by the current Conservative government. Is there any wonder that less is done?
It will be interesting to see what happens since the demise of Carillion. M62 roadworks and upgrades around Manchester seem to have progressed much faster since they went under. Could be a complete coincidence of course but it is pleasing to see things actually getting done in a timely fashion rather than the usual ‘one bloke leaning on his spade’ every 5 miles.
I’m not in favour of any roadworks but curiously most of the examples quoted in the article were on motorways and trunk roads. These are operated by Highways Agency (Or Highways England to give it its new name. They are not Local authorities but central government bodies.
Furthermore behicle breakdowns are hardly indicative of wholesale incompetence. Have no readers had completely trouble free motoring?
When work is negotiated with these companies by councils why dont they put in a penalty clause so that if they default on the finishing date then for every day longer it takes there will be a penalty of £500 off the cost for each day. That will make them hurry up. It would save the council tax payer a lot of money tool Simples. Fight money with no money!
The cowboys simply build the penalty into charges and you and I pay. Better to dispense with such contractors!
£500, wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference.
£15,000, per hour over time and with the resurfacing work put back properly, then it might make a difference.
That amount could not be put into the estimate as the contractor wouldn’t get the job!
Half the problem is outsourcing. The LA has poor control.
Stretch from A1 to York on the A64 is rediculous- new central reservation barriers being put in and traffic restrictions down to 40mph. Whilst work is happening (must be at night as I’ve never seen a workman during the day) it seems they do a bit and then move on but miss out certain sections on the way??? I’d love to understand why?!
I drove from London to Liverpool (M1, M6 and M62) last Thursday and returned this Tuesday. All those miles of roadworks and I doubt if we saw more than a dozen people working on each occasion! That’s why they take so long. All the time there was bunched traffic and no one to keep safe by going slowly. Government, get a grip, this is our money you are wasting.
When I worked for a big County Council many years ago we did work in House. We spotted potholes ourselves or Councillors did and reported to us.
Now Councillors tell me to report each pothole individually and then an outsourcing company comes round to highlight it and another (usually Amey) wanders in some weeks later and does it inadequately to presumably contract standard. If another next door is not on the list they don’t do it. Delays are built in and responsibilities are split.
I don’t like this way and if you don’t – don’t vote for the politicians who do.
In addition there are more and heavier vehicles on the road than even a few years ago. They also park on pavements more, pavements that are not built totake the weight.
Some local authorities are poor but a lot is because we vote in national government that has forced some of this madness upon us.
Good example is installation of Traffic lights and surrounding works at Cundy Cross roundabout in S. Yorks. Work was originally scheduled to be completed September 2017 and is still unfinished May10th 2018
One consideration is that used in the 1990s of lane rental. Schemes were tendered on the basis of a cost for work related to programme time. For an early finish there was a reward and for overrun a penalty was charged (or deducted from the valuation). There was an incentive to finish ASAP and the Client ensured quality was maintained. Right first time was a benefit to all. It worked well until Highways Agency changed their method of procurement. Over runs were rare and daily late offs (for which further penalties were incurred) charged in 15 minute periods. When there was an overrun causing traffic delays (as on the M25) there were questions raised in Parliament and the Company severely repremanded and future work jeopardised.
This week in Great Waldigfield Suffolk. We have a road closure. The first day the road closed but no workers arrived. The road was reopened but all road closed signs left in place. So traffic diverted for no reason.
On a local road to Sudbury some of the 20 potholes have been painted/marked since last December. This a set of traffic lights was set up and one repaired despite several being within the closure. Why bother!!!
There is no supervision of the work by Babergh Council. The contractors appear to do what they like when they like and must similarly be charging what they like.
Can we not have laws passed that say something along the lines… lights and cones are not to be placed until work is ready to begin. Once work has been started, the job is not to be vacated until all the work is completed. Every time I use a motorway, I can almost guarantee a lane closure for miles on end with no sign of workers and it’s the same with local roads – we had a water main burst causing hours of misery. Water board came and coned off the road as well as putting lights there – then off they went, leaving the misery until after the evening rush hour – it would’ve made no difference for the blokes to have carried on working. Same the following day, empty roadworks all day long causing gridlock.
Maybe they don’t have enough workers to get on the job straight away – so why not do a quick temporary fix of the leak then cover the hole with a temporary surface? We have a bridge that’s had a temporary surface for the last 25 years – and the iron/metal sheets flex down the centre of the road where they meet!
I would NOT complain one single a bit at a delay in road-works if I was aware the government was either relaying or repairing the surface !! It would be better than the sheer anger and frustration every time I disappear down one of the UK’s craters and exit praying to god that my alloys survived, tyres survived, tracking survived and the suspension – However, sadly my O/S/F&R took a terrible hit at speed on the East Lancashire Road in the Borough of Salford that has burst the seals, as the mechanically minded amongst us will be aware, you (should) have to change the shocks/dampers in pairs, meaning I have to replace the whole suspension! As if that wasn’t bad enough, my vehicle is a VXR and the price to supply only WITHOUT springs is an eye watering £1400 (IDS+) Once the work is completed I will be petitioning said council shall we say… I accept my system wasn’t brand new but neither was it on it’s way out, I do not intend to take the full hit for what is clear negligence from the council engineering department – After I contacted them, amazingly a couple of weeks later a ‘repair’ was effected. Using Google Earth, I could see that this particular area had started to fall apart years ago but not a thing was done about it – This is a VERY busy dual carriageway…. I expect them to meet me at LEAST half way on the costs of repairing the problem (+ springs + fitting) – Our roads are in a dangerous condition nationwide and I’m at a loss as to why the incompetence from the powers that oversee this problem has continued so long? The cost to drivers must be running into £millions on the whole and it is all wrong!
Roadworks not so much of a problem, it is the temp traffic lights. Stop/go boards are so very much better. Different contractors do different work. Company A sets up temp lights, Company B digs hole, utilities come and do the work, Company B returns to fill in hole, eventually, Company C does tarmac and eventually Company A arrives to remove lights, not in any hurry as more pay for more use probably.
A217 near Banstead the roadworks have overrun by 5 months so far, still no sign of them ending. Bad planning on both parts. They have been there nearly a whole year.
As has been pointed out, the most frustrating issue for drivers is the fact that in the majority of roadworks there appear to be very few if any workers on the job.
The only explanation I can come up with is that the budget is too small and the designated workforce is moved around, generally to the site where most people complain.
To top it all, why, oh why do so many miles of motorway have to be slowed down where work is only going on one portion of the length at a time (and in many instances, no work going on)?
I’m dreading the ‘smart’ (read loony) proposed roadworks of the M4 between junction 8/9 and 10, a distance of 10 miles or so 🙁
I have always felt the problems has been caused by local councils.
Living in London its very easy to cross from one to the other.
My council is brilliant, the one next is appalling. As my family have been in the district for 110 years they have seen it go from rural to urban.
The bad one has no or little foundation to the road and in the last forty years has collapsed several times. The buses are blamed but its just not user friendly to any vehicle. One section would give a tank a rough ride.
Why is it when roadworks are taking place on Motorways, there can be miles of coned off areas, and a 50mph limit, where absolutely nothing is going on ?
That’s what very frustrating.
As an M6 user we get held up for hours every year !
What about the A30 dualing at Temple on Bodmin Moor. Should have been completed LAST Summer. Still working on it with lane closures in place until a couple of weeks ago. Also had a closure for 5 days of 1.5 mile long country road linking villages with diversion in place so that “Resurfacing” could take place. When finished this resurfacing comprised a dozen or so patches which added together came to about the size of a tennis court and this took a week!!!
Often the Local Councils outsource their road repairs to companies such as Balfour Beatty. I believe that if these companies had to rent the road for the contract it would speed things up considerably as they would have a financial incentive to finish quickly.
All the councils do is cheapskate jobs which are a false economy. Plus they can’t get anything organised properly. They probably have some warped ideology that wrecking people’s cars will force them onto public transport.
Highway budgets have been cut by Government dictat and they are now cutting into the flesh of council budgets as government grants go to minus numbers. No budget is protected, not even the care of our grannies or tiny children.
Perhaps if they built the roads properly in the first place we would not have so many road works to deal with! There was a report by an American engineer at least 10/15 years ago that if we built our road 1/2 to 1″ deeper we would not get so many problems!