Wednesday, 11 September 2019

What is Surface Dressing?

Ask the Contract Director!

We understand that as members of the public, you probably have a lot of burning questions regarding the roads around Buckinghamshire. Well, we’re giving you the opportunity to get your questions answered by Transport for Buckinghamshire’s Contract Director!


This is the 12th blog post in the series. This week, we’re answering:


What is Surface Dressing?


Surface Dressing is an efficient and effective method for routine maintenance of road surfaces.

Having previously repaired any defects on the road, we spray the existing surface with a thin layer of hot bitumen binder, before spreading stone chippings over the bitumen. This is then made to stick to the existing surface using a heavy roller.

There are many benefits to carrying out Surface Dressing treatment. First of all, it forms a water resistant layer. This makes the road less slippery, and therefore more skid resistant for 7-10 years.

Using Surface Dressing also extends the life of the road, by preventing water (and, as a result of cold temperatures, ice) getting in to cause cracks, which could eventually develop into potholes.

Once we have completed the Surface Dressing, it has to be left for a week before we can return back to the site and sweep the road, removing most of the loose chippings. However, some loose chippings will remain until vehicles drive over them, pressing them into the bitumen.

Surface Dressing work is very weather dependant and so cannot be carried out if the weather is too hot or too cold.

Upon completion of Surface Dressing work, you can drive on the road, but only once all the materials have been laid. If you drive on the wet bitumen before we have spread the chippings, it will stick to your vehicle.

It is not advised to walk, or allow your pets to walk, on the new surface, even when the chippings have been laid. This is because some may stick to your shoes (and your pet’s paws!)




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Monday, 22 July 2019

Give us your views on roads!


Give us your views on roads! 

Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) seeks to listen to the views of its residents and, each year, takes part in the National Highways and Transportation (NHT) survey. This survey is sent to 3,300 householders in Buckinghamshire during June.

This year, BCC is giving residents the opportunity to respond to its own additional online transport survey. This will be taking a deeper look at two of the key NHT questions about ‘Road Condition’ and ‘Road Congestion’. The opinions collected through this survey, will assist BCC with its strategic planning function.







Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Transportation, Mark Shaw said, “when we look at the combined results of these two surveys, we can really start to build a picture of how the public views and rates our services. This will assist both Buckinghamshire County Council with transport planning and Transport for Buckinghamshire - the strategic highway maintenance arm of the organisation – with advising us on where the roads budget is best spent each year. We really value the views of our residents, and this additional questionnaire will give us a better understanding of any issues respondents are experiencing with road condition and road congestion.”

The survey will remain open to the residents of Buckinghamshire until 30th September 2019. It takes under 5 minutes to complete and is open to all residents even if they have responded to the initial NHT survey received last month. The results will be made available on the BCC website, in the autumn this year.


https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BCCtransportsurvey2019 



Thursday, 20 June 2019

Why aren't you cutting the grass properly?

Ask the Contract Director!

We understand that as members of the public, you probably have a lot of burning questions regarding the roads around Buckinghamshire. Well, we're giving you the opportunity to get your questions answered by Transport for Buckinghamshire's Contract Director!

This is the 11th blog post that we have produced focusing on the questions that you have been asking the most, this week we are looking at:


Why aren't you cutting the grass properly?

Grass cutting takes place between April and October depending on the weather and each cut takes between seven and eight weeks to complete. 

Every year, we carry out four urban grass cuts across the county. In some urban areas, responsibility has been passed to the local Town or Parish Council through devolved services.

A lot of you have expressed some dissatisfaction with a number of aspects of our grass cutting this year, so we would like to address those concerns now:


The grass cutting is behind schedule!

We did start our grass cutting in the Aylesbury Vale one week late due to equipment issues. Since then, we have lost approximately five days due to poor weather conditions and issues with equipment. As it currently stands, we have completed the first cut and already begun the second cut. 

As we are approximately two weeks behind in the North of the county, we are working at the weekends in an attempt to catch up. By the time we get to the third cut, we will be back on track with the programme. 

In the High Wycombe area, the grass cutting programme is also approximately two weeks behind. 

In South Bucks and Chiltern areas of the county, we are approximately four weeks behind and are just completing cut one. 


You're not strimming after cutting the grass and then you're leaving the cut grass behind!

All strimming around street furniture is completed in conjunction with mowing. However, as the grass has not been cut since last October it can be incredibly long and doesn't always drop once strimmed, giving the impression that it hasn't been cut. 

We have not collected the clippings for many years as to do so adds a large cost to the operation. There are also issues with appropriate disposal of them. Our teams do blow the loose grass cuttings back onto the verge. However, this does mean the loose grass can sometimes make the area look like it hasn't been cut or strimmed. Unfortunately, if the conditions are windy then the grass can blow back onto the footpath or road. 











You've missed my area!

Because of the amount of rain we have had at the moment, the grass has had ideal growing conditions and as a consequence of this, is growing very quickly. This means that sites that have received their first cut early on in the programme may appear as though they have been missed from the programme.


Can I cut the verge outside my house?

In much the same way as we encourage residents to clear the footpaths in the winter if we have snow, there are very few good reasons to prevent a resident living in an urban area with a 30mph speed limit from cutting the verge outside of their property. If you want to cut the grass then:

- Use a petrol mower if possible, if not then make sure your electric mower has a protected plug or is connected to a protected socket

- Make sure there are no big stones that could flick up and break windows, damage cars or hurt yourself or a passing pedestrian

- Stop mowing when somebody comes close

- If you want to collect the clippings then dispose of them responsibly. Leave the last cuts clippings in place, this will help to replenish the soils nutrients. 

The people driving the vehicles are speeding

Our teams are trained to use the equipment that we use and are aware that speeding does cause issues with the quality of the cut produced. 

All of our vehicles are tracked and the speed is monitored. 


You've neglected Iver!

Iver is receiving grass cuts just as often as anywhere else in the county. In fact, Iver was one of the first parishes to be cut in the South of the county! 




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Thursday, 23 May 2019

Respect Our Workforce - Think, keep calm and just turn back.


May has seen the launch of Transport for Buckinghamshire’s (TfB) latest campaign, Respect Our Workforce. Launched with the aim of reminding members of the public to treat operatives, inspectors and technicians on the road with respect, so far the campaign has featured videos and photos from site, discussing some of the abuse that the workforce have to encounter.




Customer facing employees, such as operatives, have been sworn at, shouted at, spat at, had rubbish thrown at them, bottles thrown at them and have even been physically assaulted – all whilst just trying to do their job. In some terrifying instances, operatives have even had members of the public drive through road closures because they don’t want to use the diversion route. By doing this, they are not only putting their own lives at risk, but also the operatives’ lives at risk too.

It’s a rare – and horrific – occasion if this kind of behaviour is experienced in an office based job, or a job with minimal customer engagement. However, for TfB operatives, inspectors and technicians, who meet members of the public regularly, it’s almost a daily occurrence.
We understand that road closures can be frustrating, that temporary signals can be annoying, that being held up at a site where you can’t see any work happening can be the last straw on a bad day, but it’s never an excuse to abuse our workforce.




Deputy Leader and Transport Cabinet Member, Mark Shaw, said:

“They’re here to do a job. They’re here to look after our roads and make sure they’re safe for you to travel on. We’ve now provided bodycams to each of our traffic management people, so if any incidents happen, we can do something about it. Think, keep calm and just turn back.”

It’s hoped that this new campaign will shed some light on the gravity of the situation, and how TfB can work with the public to prevent abuse from happening.

If you’re a social media user, you may have noticed an increase in our communications via Facebook and Twitter. This is to keep the public in the loop as far ahead of works as possible. A lot of anger comes from members of the public not being informed about closures and diversion routes and we want to tackle this. We will also be looking into using additional, more informative signage for closures and diversions.

Don’t forget, you can also double check your routes for the day using tools such as roadworks.org to check for closures, diversions and delays. This can help you to plan accordingly and avoid any frustrations.

Issues on the road are not the fault of our workforce. If you want to speak to them about the work going, please do so with respect and in a civil manner.

We will bring the abuse of our workforce to an end.

Think, keep calm and just turn back.

Monday, 29 April 2019

What are you doing about all the weeds this year?

Ask the Contract Director!

We understand that as members of the public, you probably have a lot of burning questions regarding the roads around Buckinghamshire. Well, we're giving you the opportunity to get your questions answered by Transport for Buckinghamshire's Contract Director!



This is the 10th blog post that we have produced focusing on the questions that you have been asking the most, this week we are looking at:

What are you doing about all the weeds this year?

Buckinghamshire County Council has had to balance revenue budgets over recent years. This has required consideration of numerous competing priorities, including our statutory duty to ensure the highway remains safe and serviceable, and also tackling priorities identified through customer feedback. Because of this, routine weed control (with the exception of noxious weeds) has not been carried out with any kind of regularity over the past four years. 

Unchecked weed growth isn't just unsightly though - it can also lead to accelerated carriageway deterioration and can inhibit the efficient flow of surface water into and through drainage systems. 

In recognition of these longer term effects, TfB has been given an additional £500,000 to spend on routine weed treatment across the county in 2019. 

Routine weed treatment is a  programme of three cycles of routine spraying that will be undertaken across primary footway locations, including hardstandings, kerbs and channels. This equates to 3,408km of kerbline/channel and 3,055km of footway per treatment. 

This spraying will take place in April to combat early season growth, then in June to combat peak season growth and finally in September to combat secondary regrowth. Timings will be adjusted dependent on weather and growth levels. Spraying during high winds and/or heavy rainfall will be avoided as effectiveness is reduced significantly. 

We will be using a chemical that is a non-residual contact herbicide. 

We also have a statutory obligation to control the noxious and injurious weeds on the highway network across the county and this will continue as normal throughout the year. 


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Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Why are the traffic lights only letting two cars through?

Ask the Contract Director!

We understand that as members of the public, you probably have a lot of burning questions regarding the roads around Buckinghamshire. Well, we're giving you the opportunity to get your questions answered by Transport for Buckinghamshire's Contract Director!

This is the 9th blog post that we have produced focusing on the questions that you have been asking, this week we are looking at:


Why are the traffic lights only letting two cars through?

There are currently over 200 traffic signal sites in Buckinghamshire. These are a mixture of traffic signal controls, from large junctions to pedestrian crossings.

All traffic signals rely on sensors that react to vehicles and pedestrians. Some of these sensors are controlled by their own internal control system, whilst others are coordinated from County Hall in Aylesbury on a centralised system, connected by telephone communications.






Throughout the day the signal timings at each junction are varied according to demand. This allows us to control traffic levels across the county. Whilst this has been done for many years, the systems we use are gradually becoming smarter and more effective, especially at times of high demand. Strategies can be set to bias the timings for a particular route or main road, and coordination is automated to determine the best signal timings for a group of junctions considered together. This can be why you sometimes feel you are being kept waiting at a red signal for no apparent reason! 

For example; If there's a red signal and on the other side of the signal is a queue of traffic, we don't want to allow cars through just to join the queue! This means we might make a red signal last a little longer, and only let through a small number of cars each time, to reduce congestion and help the traffic to flow a little better. When the traffic eases up, we can let more cars through at a time. 

In addition to this, we utilise CCTV to watch the road network for congestion and accidents. When these things occur on the network, we intervene with the signals where necessary, to try to control the traffic building up. 


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Friday, 5 April 2019

Why won't the Watermead bollards stay up?

Ask the Contract Director!

We understand that as members of the public, you probably have a lot of burning questions regarding the roads around Buckinghamshire. Well, we’re giving you the opportunity to get your questions answered by Transport for Buckinghamshire's Contract Director!

This is the 8th blog post that we have produced focusing on the questions that you have been asking, this week we are looking at:


Why won't the Watermead bollards stay up?

Recently, we refurbished some automatic bollards at Lark Vale, Watermead. These bollards create a restricted access route and make sure the route can only be used by buses. Unfortunately since they were installed, the bollards have failed several times. This has happened for a number of reasons and has caused a lot of frustration to the local residents. 

The system that was originally in place for the bollards was outdated, having been in use for over ten years. This meant that maintenance of the bollards became increasingly difficult and so they were becoming very unreliable.

Using our 2018/19 budget, we were able to refurbish the bollards and install new technology for the system to operate on. This new system utilises the use of ground detectors, card readers and card swipe systems. 



The bollards during refurbishing works.



So how does the new system work?

Currently, bus drivers should drive the bus over the ground detector, and get their access pass card detected by the card reader, which is mounted on a pole on the drivers side on the approach. The reader then 'grants' access and the bollards lower into the ground. Once the bus has passed safely through, and the ground detectors are clear, the bollards rise back up.


How are we dealing with the system when it fails?

Aside from the vandalism incident, which caused the system to fail, they would only fail for safety reasons. For example, if a bus drives too close before the bollards are retracted, they will remain lowered. This has happened on several occasions now, and we are working closely with the bus team to make sure drivers are fully trained on how to use the bollards correctly. Each time a bus trips out the bollard system, a member of our team has to attend the site to manually reset the bollards, and we do this as soon as we can. 

However, whilst we originally thought this was the only problem, we have now discovered that the system is occasionally failing for other reasons that are requiring ongoing investigation. As a result, we are working closely with our contractors, ATG, who are currently investigating this as an urgent priority. 

Until we have resolved this issue, we will continue to go and reset the bollards as and when we need to.


What else are we doing?

In addition to looking into how we can rectify this ongoing issue, we are also seeing if we can implement two changes to the bollards - a manual reset button and remote monitoring. 

The manual reset button would mean we could give the Parish Council the ability to reset the bollards themselves. This would mean they could potentially be reset more quickly than having to wait for someone from Transport for Buckinghamshire to attend the site. 

Having remote monitoring would mean that we could raise and lower the bollards from our offices, so we wouldn't have to attend the site and again, the issue could be rectified more quickly. 


We understand resident's frustration with the bollards at Lark Vale and we are aware that it is an ongoing issue. Please be assured that this is a priority and we are working to resolve the problems as soon as we can. 


***EDIT - FURTHER UPDATE***

After some thorough investigation, we have been able to determine that there are issues with the card reader wiring; the wires need to be replaced. This has taken longer to determine than expected because it's an issue to do with the ducting - pipe lines that are carrying the electrical wiring beneath the ground. It is suspected that these have become either damaged or blocked, which is preventing the bollards from working. 

Due to the scale of work required, we are looking at different options that both maximise the effectiveness of the repair as well as being cost efficient. 

Why aren't we leaving the bollards up and resetting them more regularly?

Due to the card reader failing, not only does this cause the bollards to fail, but in most cases this would actually cause the bollards to remain up. This happened at our Fairford Leys site and is not something we want to repeat at Lark Vale, as it would cause more issues - the buses would not be able to get through because the card reader wouldn't work! As a result of this, it has been decided to leave the bollards down until further notice. 

We are currently working with our supply chain partner to get these issues resolved as soon as possible and will continue to share updates as and when we have them. 

We know this situation is frustrating but we thank you for your patience and hope you understand that this isn't straightforward for us to resolve. 



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