Wednesday 7 July 2010 10.37am
I'm sure that if I said some sweeping bad generalization about taxi drivers, Tom Pepper would quite rightly be annoyed at me.
And therefore I'm a bit miffed that the general feeling here is so against road works, and traffic congestion.
The roads in London are currently going through a larger than usual amount of road works, mostly to do with Thames Water replacing all of the Victorian metal mains water piping with plastic ones that will last longer, and require less maintenance, and have less leakage.
All road works across London are coordinated to reduce the risk of roads near each other being dug up at the same time. Councils can put in place 'section 58' agreements that mean that no one can dig up a road for x number of months after a major resurfacing (unless it's an emergency repair), Utilities are working together so that roads are only dug up once for several things (like gas and water along Borough High St), and all road works in London can be found in one place on one website public access to Londonworks
where the public can see what's planned for the future.
all roads and streetworks require a permit before they're allowed to begin, which includes start and end dates (duration), and there are heavy fines in place for contractors that overrun these deadlines (both for the highway authority (local council), the contractor, and the sub contractor actually doing the work). This is part of legislation under the New Roads and Streetworks Act. Utilites, and councils have been fined lots of money for overunning streetworks, and maintenance firms have lost contracts because of this too. So there is plenty at stake.
Most road works are carried out at times outside of the busiest road usage periods (because while doing work, they require more space for machinery, and lorries delivering or picking up materials, and plant), so mostly when you drive past, there will be no one on site. Contractors can only work so many hours a shift, and so many hours a week, and employing 3 shifts to do one job 24 hours a day, is very unusual, and only likely on a major job that needs to be done quickly, as it's just too expensive to pay the workforce all the extra for unsociable hours. Working outside of normal hours is also unusual, as you need to get extra permits, and fulfill further obligations if you're working at night, or over the weekend.
Road closures are often tried to be avoided, but are sometimes necessary under health and safety legislation, and the Health and Safety Executive have also fined companies for not implementing sufficient safegaurds for either public on/near to a site, and also workers on site.
As mentioned in the article linked, it was a very harsh winter just gone, and this has caused more than the normal amount of potholes, and these are being dealt with, but councils only have so much budget, and the worst roads are usually done first.
Once Thames Water have finished upgrading the mains water pipes, things should be return to a lower level, but there will always be road works, because road surfaces deteriorate over time.
and just to add, I work for a highways department for a local London Borough.