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Suffolk Highways calls for reduction in disruption on roads caused by utility works

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Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (6335828)
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (6335828)

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

Conservative councillor Mary Evans, cabinet member for highways, said more than 50 per cent of the county’s road closures were for utility work.

At a scrutiny committee meeting on December 19, Cllr 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 on 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 for operational highways, said because of the number of firms needing to book highway works, utility companies like gas, water and electricity often booked longer than needed.

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 which leave barriers or equipment by the roadside, fines can be issued.

A permit scheme is also being investigated, which would allow more stringent penalties for firms that overrun their timescales.

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