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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Tuesday, 26 March 2019

What's going on with the Plane and Patch programme?


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 7th blog post that we have produced focusing on the questions that you have been asking, this week we are looking at:


What’s going on with the Plane and Patch programme?


This year’s Plane and Patch programme commenced on 4th March 2019 and, continuing until September, will cover over 150 separate locations around Buckinghamshire.

As the work goes on, we have been sharing ‘before and after’ pictures of each road undergoing Plane and Patch treatment on our social media channels. Some of the locations that we have shared so far have been roads in more residential areas, and we have been asked why that is.






TfB takes a balanced approach to prioritising which roads to repair, a strategy that we believe provides the best mix of preventative and replacement work across all roads in the County. The majority of the annual capital budget is targeted at ensuring our main roads remain in good condition, with most larger resurfacing and surface treatment schemes taking place on more strategically important roads. 

However, it is very important that we do not allow our main roads to take up our entire budget because many of our more minor roads, which are still important routes for locals, are in poor condition. For this reason, we make sure that some of the budget is spent on all classes of roads.  Plane and Patch work is particularly effective on minor roads, compared to main roads.

The Plane and Patch programme therefore primarily targets these more minor routes and is largely driven and determined by our Local Area Technicians (LAT’s) and Members, who, between them, have a broad knowledge of the roads within their area, particularly those that will benefit most from Plane and Patch treatment.

Do you want to read more about our approach to highways asset management?  See here for more details. 


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Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Why haven't you turned this light back on? - Ask the Contract Director #6



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!

In each blog post in this exciting new series, we will be focusing on a different frequently asked question. This week, we’re answering:


Why haven’t you turned this light back on?


Transport for Buckinghamshire looks after over 29,000 streetlights and 6,000 illuminated bollards. Across the county, we rely on thousands of street lights to illuminate the local paths and footways for us when we are out and about.


LED Replacement Programme

Over the course of 2018/19, the Street Lighting Team has been replacing 3,295 of the ‘old style’ lanterns with LED equipment. These old style lanterns cast an orange light, whilst the new lanterns produce a brighter, white light. Approximately 3,000 of these lanterns have been converted and it is expected that this programme will be complete by the end of March 2019.

However a small amount of the old style lanterns will remain for a number of reasons, whilst remedial actions are taken, including a need for the entire column to be changed or the column base being surrounded by privately owned land.

In addition to this, the team has also completely replaced 344 lanterns which were mounted on electricity poles.






Night Scouting

Whilst you can report street lights that are damaged or broken on ‘Fix My Street’, TfB also has a Night Scouting programme. Members of the Street Lighting team check for outages along the strategic routes across the county, making note of lights that need any work doing to them. Six routes are covered over a three month period, and the scouting occurs on a quarterly basis.

However, if you do spot a damaged or broken street light, please do report it using ‘Fix My Street’ (https://www.fixmystreet.buckscc.gov.uk/). Use the search bar to find the road the street light is on, use the marker to pinpoint the area it is in and select the number of the street light that you are reporting. This should be used for faults that do not present an immediate risk, for example, street lights that aren’t working. In an emergency, please call 01296 382416 to report.



Solar powered bollards

Transport for Buckinghamshire’s Street Lighting Team has been working with their manufacturing partners, NAL Ltd and Traffic Management Products (TMP), to begin implementing a new and innovative bollard solution across the county, installing over 100 bollards to date. These new bollards are solar powered and have a number of benefits, including reduced energy costs and no need to connect to underground cables, meaning no issues can be caused by power outages or damaged cables.

Another advantage of these new bollards is that they are also easier to repair – the solar powered bollards use socket mounted equipment. Currently, if a bollard is damaged or broken, it can be complicated to repair or replace them as there is a need for traffic management, or in some cases, road closures. However, if one of the new style bollards is damaged or needs replacing, the equipment can be changed quickly and easily and removes the possibility of live wires being exposed in the event of a road traffic collision.






Sometimes the problem lies with the electricity supplier

Sometimes members of the public report failed lights to us that have stopped working due to an underground electrical supply fault. If this is the case, TfB are not able to repair the fault, because the cables are owned and maintained by the electricity companies for the area. Only they are allowed to carry out repairs to their networks.

TfB works closely with the three electricity companies who have equipment within the county to resolve these issues as and when they’re discovered, but the repairs can take some time and be complex in nature. This is usually why, sometimes, a street light you have reported as being out may be out for some time.



Remember…

Street lights are for lighting public highway and footpaths. Please do not report street lights that are not lighting up privately owned land, for example, gardens and driveways.


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Tuesday, 12 March 2019

How do you decide which potholes to repair? - Ask the Contract Director #5

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!

In each blog post in this exciting new series, we will be focusing on a different frequently asked question. This week, we’re answering:



How do you decide which potholes to repair?


Buckinghamshire County Council’s 3,200km highway infrastructure is its most valuable asset, valued at £4.2 billion. It provides a vital transportation network for both businesses and private users.

Under our Routine Maintenance Service Principle, Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) is to maintain the highway infrastructure in a safe and serviceable condition for its users, whether driving, walking or cycling. In order to identify any defects on the highway, regular inspections are carried out by TfB Highways Inspectors and Local Area Technicians (LATs).


Carrying out inspections

Highway Safety Inspections are supplemented by other inspections and assessments carried out in line with national standards and/or good practice, including but not limited to:

  •         Inspections undertaken in response to specific matters identified through correspondence (e.g. Fix My Street reports)
  •         Specialist inspections of certain assets within the highway boundary (e.g. street lighting and structures)
  •        Technical assessments of carriageway condition, generally undertaken using machine based equipment
  •         Streetworks Inspections

The frequency for safety inspections of individual roads is based upon the Carriageway Maintenance Hierarchy adopted by Buckinghamshire County Council, which considers:

  • Road Category: Strategic roads, main distributer and secondary distributor roads are inspected on a monthly basis whereas local link-roads are inspected on a quarterly basis and local access roads are inspected annually.
  • Traffic use, characteristics and trends
  • Characteristics of adjoining roads
  • Wider policy or operational considerations

Although the road category within the hierarchy, in combination with traffic use, will determine the inspection frequency, site specific factors may contribute to a decision to temporarily or permanently increase or reduce the frequency of the inspection of a specific location. Factors that may contribute to this kind of decision may include accident rates and unusually high defect levels.




Identifying a defect

Like many authorities, TfB used to repair potholes based on their ‘size’. A large pothole with jagged edges would be repaired more quickly than a small one, regardless of its location. However, we now follow a risk-based approach when it comes to repairs, meaning that we take in to consideration:
  • The risk posed to the public
  • The extent, depth and surface area
  • The volume and speed of traffic of the road the defect is on
  • The location, such as junctions and bends
  • Forecast weather conditions

Applying this risk based approach is beneficial to road users, as it means that we are able to target our resources to higher risk defects. Lower risk defects can be fitted in to repair programmes that allow us to operate far more efficiently.


Defect Categorisation

TfB’s Safety Inspection Policy defines defects in three categories:

Emergency (Category E) – Those that require prompt attention because they represent an immediate hazard.

Emergency defects will be permanently repaired or made safe at the time of the inspection, if possible. Making the defect safe may constitute displaying warning notices, coning or fencing off to protect the public from the defect or other suitable actions. If the inspection team are unable to effect a “make safe” then we do have repair teams available to attend within the 2hr time frame.

Category E defects will be permanently repaired within 28 working days if a permanent repair was not possible upon the first visit.

Category 1 Those that require priority attention because they represent a potential risk to road users or reduce the reliability of the highway.

Category 1 defects will also be permanently repaired or made safe at the time of the inspection, if possible. If it is not possible to repair or make safe at the time of the inspection then an appropriate repair will be carried out within two working days of the identification of the defect and a permanent repair made within 28 working days.

Category 2 – All other defects.

Category 2 defects are those which are deemed not to present an immediate hazard and which can be repaired within longer timescales – they are either programmed for repair within 28 calendar days or included in a forward works programme. Category 2 defects are categorised according to priority:
  •         High (Cat 2H)
  •         Medium (Cat 2M)
  •         Low (Cat 2L)

Inspectors are able to determine which sub-category the defect falls into by using their Safety Inspection Guidance Manual which provides examples of defects that may be encountered on the network and their potential categorisation. However, our on-site assessment will always need to take account of other particular circumstances. The inspector will also take into consideration the likelihood of further deterioration before the next scheduled inspection, and where this is a high probability, a higher classification may be determined.




Minimum Investigatory Levels

It is recognised that on any highway network a multitude of minor defects will exist which do not pose any risk to either the safety or the reliability of the highway. As a result, it would be impractical and inefficient to use limited financial resources to undertake repairs. These types of defects are described as ‘not meeting the Minimum Investigatory Levels’, which for potholes is defined as 40mm or under in depth and less than 300mm across in any direction.

Any defects that do not meet the Minimum Investigatory Levels will be recorded if the inspector deems this appropriate (for example, where a cluster of such defects may form a potential preventative maintenance scheme in the future).  These kinds of defects will be recorded as Category 2L defects.

To find a more detailed copy of our Defect Risk Assessment, visit the web page here


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