Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Tougher consequences for drivers caught using handheld mobile phones after March 1st

As of March 1st, if caught using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel, drivers will face double the penalties. The fine is increasing from £100 to £200, and licence points are increasing from three to six; for drivers who have had their licences for less than two years, this will mean reverting to learner status, reapplying for a provisional licence and taking both the theory and practical tests again

Using a handheld device at the wheel has been illegal in the UK since 2003, when a three point penalty and £30 on-the-spot fine was introduced. Since then, the fine has risen from £30 to £60 in 2007, and then to £100 in 2013 but this is the first time the potential points incurred has also been raised. This new six point penalty will mean losing their licence altogether for new drivers who have not yet been driving for 2 years; a tough consequence aimed at the younger drivers who, research indicates, are the worst offenders. Despite being made law more than ten years ago, recent surveys have shown that drivers are more nonchalant about breaking the law than ever before, with the percentage of people who think it’s acceptable to take a call while driving has doubled in the last two years.
County Councillor Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Transportation in Buckinghamshire, welcomes the increased penalties:

“I see so many drivers in Buckinghamshire using their mobiles at the wheel, and it makes my blood boil! The fact that some drivers think it is acceptable to focus even a part of their attention on some text message, call, or – even worse – social media while they are driving, is terrifying. My message to drivers is: put the phone away while you are in the car. It is not safe – no matter how good a driver you think you are, you are 50 per cent less focussed when you are on your phone. To think anything else is pure arrogance, and it could cost a life.”

Remind yourself of the details of the ban:
  • It includes using your mobile phone to follow a map, read a text or check social media. This applies even if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
  • You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.
  • If you’re caught using a handheld phone while driving, you’ll get 6 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £200. Points on your licence will result in higher insurance costs.
  • Fines can increase to £1000, or more, if being caught results in prosecution for dangerous driving.
  •  You may use a hands-free phone while driving but you can still be prosecuted if you’re not in proper control of your vehicle. The penalties are same as being caught using a handheld phone.
  • The penalties for driving carelessly or dangerously when using a handheld or hands-free phone can include disqualification, a large fine and up to two years imprisonment.

Why the ban matters:
  • Research shows you are four times more likely to have an accident while on phone.
  • Reaction times for drivers using a phone are around 50 per cent slower than normal driving.
  • Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text - and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a crash

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Transport for Buckinghamshire responds to Storm Doris incidents

As Storm Doris sends strong winds across Buckinghamshire, Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) is receiving hundreds of calls from the public reporting trees and debris in the roads. Several TfB teams have had to suspend other work in order to deal with trees and debris blocking Buckinghamshire’s roads, working closely with local tree surgeons, utilities companies, and police. Work to clear the roads is likely to continue into the night. Here’s a roundup from the three main areas of the county, about how the local TfB teams have dealt with Doris so far:

Aylesbury Vale:

Trees have been the main issue either fallen across or depositing debris on the road. Teams have attended to 18 (as of 3pm) trees in the road, with several still to do.

There are two in-house crews attending to debris reported on the roads, who are putting in road closures and diversions.

In addition there are two tree surgeon contractors also clearing fallen trees. Western Power Distribution have been called to Little Horwood where a tree fell across the road, brought a powerline down, and landed on the Public House. (The A413 between Winslow and Swanbourne will remain closed for several hours due to a tree falling on a powerline)

Chilterns & South Bucks:

Over 50 fallen trees have caused disruption on the roads in the Chiltern and South Bucks area today.

The whole workforce is currently dealing with removing trees and branches from the road, or installing road closures. In several locations TfB teams are being supported by South Bucks Tree Surgeons in order to deal with the larger obstructions.

All other works have had to be suspended this afternoon due to the sheer volume of wind-related incidents, and it looks likely the work will continue into the evening.

High Wycombe and surrounding areas:

So far today the High Wycombe team has dealt with 22 trees in the road, and have suspended gully cleaning to release another crew to deal with the effects of the stormy weather. Only one of the trees required help from local tree surgeons.

It is expected that at least two crews will continue working into this evening.  

***If you see trees in the road, please DO NOT report it via social media: CALL 01296 382416 or 01296 486630 (out of hours) and report it directly ***

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Press release from Thames Valley Police, dated 20/02/2017 

Police to Enforce Marlow Bridge weight restriction

Thames Valley Police will be checking vehicles crossing Marlow Bridge to make sure they do not exceed the weight limit.

For six weeks, from Wednesday 1 March 2017, any overweight vehicles trying to cross the bridge will be turned around by officers and issued with an advisory notice.

After this period Thames Valley Police will enforce the weight restriction and issue £50 fixed penalty notices to drivers breaching this traffic regulation.

Marlow Bridge is a Grade 1 listed structure and its use is restricted to vehicles under three metric tonnes maximum gross weight (MGW) and less than 6ft 6ins wide.

It is the driver’s responsibility to know their vehicles MGW and to ensure that they do not infringe road traffic regulations. If anyone is unsure of their vehicles MGW they should refer to the vehicle handbook, supplying dealer or manufacturer’s website.

Whilst there are some exceptions, typically the following vehicles should not be using this bridge: Range Rovers, Discoveries, Ford Transit vans, Mercedes Sprinter vans, Volvo XC90s, 4WD pick-ups, Mercedes GLE/GLS/G Classes and Audi Q7s. 

The number of passengers or luggage within the vehicle has no bearing on its MGW.

PS Robin Hughes from Marlow neighbourhood team said: “We appreciate that this activity may cause some traffic disruption in the short term however it is imperative that people understand the importance of not driving overweight vehicles on this bridge.

“The weight restrictions are clearly signposted and the alternative route for vehicles that exceed this, along the A404 bypass, will add just a few minutes onto most people’s journeys.

“By adhering to these simple road traffic regulations we can all help to prevent future disruption in the area for residents, visitors and commuters and ensure that this well-loved local landmark remains undamaged.”

Friday, 17 February 2017

Improvements coming to Chesham High Street

Works by Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) are set to commence this Monday, 20th February, providing improvements to Chesham High Street and Market Square. The carefully planned works, which include maintenance requiring planning permission due to the town centre’s conservation area status, have been scheduled in close cooperation between TfB, the Environment Agency, Chesham Town Council, and local businesses.

The planned works comprise footway and carriageway improvements including repair to areas damaged by tree roots, replacement of some blockwork along the footway between Station Road and Red Lion Street, installation of a new drainage channel between Station Road and Church Street to address some flooding issues, and tree pruning and maintenance.

Efforts have been made to limit disruption to local businesses and residents during the predicted six to eight weeks the works will take to complete. While fencing around works will be in place, access to all properties will be open, and any works affecting access to local businesses will take place outside of normal working hours.  Chesham’s vibrant Wednesday and Saturday markets will also continue to operate during the works. Utmost care and respect will be employed in making these vital improvements to one of Buckinghamshire’s important historic towns, and all works have been designed with the conservation of town character in mind.

County Councillor Mark Shaw, who is Cabinet Member for Transportation in Buckinghamshire, has emphatically welcomed the improvements to his home town saying, ‘It’s been a long road to securing the budget and organising these vital works, and Noel Brown [County Councillor for Chess Valley] and I are both so happy they are about to commence. We really tried to listen to local residents and businesses, and the concerns we were hearing about were trip hazards and flooding – I believe these issues will be addressed by these works, and I hope everyone enjoys, and benefits from, the results. So, please bear with the contractors for the next couple of months or so, and we’ll have a renewed and restored high street just in time for spring.”

Notes: Works commence on Monday 20th February and are scheduled to take 6-8 weeks, weather dependent. All works take place within the pedestrianised part of Chesham town centre, with access retained for delivery and service vehicles as usual. 

Monday, 13 February 2017

TfB Twitter and Facebook Policy FAQ

Q: Is TfB social media monitored 24/7?
A: No. A Transport for Buckinghamshire communications officer will monitor Twitter and Facebook during working hours, 9 – 5pm Monday to Friday.

Q: But I saw a tweet from TfB Alerts on Saturday evening, who sent that?
A: From time to time, particularly during winter, tweets will be sent by us outside of working hours. Every day between October and March we dispatch a gritting decision tweet, which is sent by one of our staff from home, with no access to other work resources. We also sometimes schedule tweets and Facebook posts using Hootsuite, to go out at the desired times of the evening or weekend. 

Q: Can I report pot holes via Twitter and Facebook?
A: Ideally, no. The best and most efficient way for you to report anything to TfB, from feedback and compliments to complaints and reports of problems on the highway, is to use our website. By logging on the website, your report will receive a unique Customer Reference Number that you can track afterwards to see its progress. This is the quickest way for your comments and queries to get to the correct person.

Q: What if it’s an emergency?
A: If it’s an emergency, definitely don’t report it on Twitter or Facebook! Phone our 24 hour contact line, 01296 382416 or 01296 486630 (out of hours) and tell us directly.

Q: But I’ve seen you accept reports through Twitter in the past?
A: Our communications officers use their judgment about how to deal with reports that come in on Twitter during working hours. If the report seems urgent, or the officer has the time to act on it on behalf of the Tweeter, they will. Out of hours, however, it will simply not be seen. In general, our policy is to direct social media users to reporting on the website links listed below.

Q: How do I report a pot hole?
A: By logging it online, here, and getting a customer reference number. You can then track the report’s progress here. If you provide an email address on your report you will also receive automated updates via email.

Q: Where do I report a broken streetlight?
A: Here, using the interactive map. It helps if you have noted the column number of the light in question. This map will also tell you if the light has already been reported, or if it is part of an energy saving initiative.

Q: Where do I report something else, that’s not a pothole or streetlight?
A: Whether it’s an issue on a public right of way, or a blocked drain, you can report all other highway issues on the website.

Q: I want to complain!
A: Sorry to hear that, but you can do so here. You can also use that link to give us general feedback, or pay us a compliment for a job well done. 

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Another cold snap

Weather reports are circulating via the media with the mention of snow. TfB winter decision makers are aware of the potential for a light dusting of snow over the next 24 hours. Our local forecast does not identify significant or disruptive snow. Our gritters will be treating the winter network early this evening in preparation for a hoar frost. We will keep you updated.
Follow us on Twitter @tfbalerts for up to the minute gritting information.

New year's honours for TfB's gritters

After a long and hardworking career, Transport for Buckinghamshire gritters Salty, Daisy and Snowdrop have retired. In their place we welcome Blizzard Wizard, Snowphie and Brrrrrrian!

During December Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) held a competition to name their three new arrivals, and whittled over 200 entries down to the winning three. It was a tough decision, with entries such as ‘Melt’n John’ and ‘Meltallica’ as well, of course, as Salty McSaltface…

Blizzard Wizard was named by Arran and Calum Kelly from Chesham, Brrrrrrian’s name was chosen by Beth Arnaud from Waddesdon, and Snowphie has been named by Sophie Ingham from Long Crendon, who chose her own nickname, given to her as it snowed on the day of her birth. Her ‘glitter’ as she refers to it, along with the other two new trucks, will join the existing fleet, all of which were named during 2009 by local schools.

Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport said, “The guys who carry out our winter road salting work hard through a tough season, and having a little light relief in the form of fun gritter names just brings a bit of humour to the job. We love running these competitions and I’m delighted with the new names. Don’t forget to check them out online!”
The new salting trucks will be out on their routes over the rest of the winter season, and can now be tracked in real time on TfB’s online gritting map. www.buckscc.gov.uk/winter.

TfB make daily decisions during the winter about whether or not to treat the roads based on forecasts from stations across the county. They make this decision based on a number of factors, but will look at whether or not the road temperature will drop below zero.

To keep informed of these decisions, follow TfB on Twitter @tfbalerts.

Gary Tibbles, Supervisor; Sophie and her mum; Niki Atkins, Fleet Manager with new 'glitter', Snowphie

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Seen a pothole? Tell TfB!

With the recent cold snap over, you may have noticed a few more potholes in our roads. This is normal after a period of below zero temperatures, and Transport for Buckinghamshire is laying on extra crews to tackle them, as a result.

These potholes are formed through the ‘freeze-thaw’ cycle, where water gets into tiny imperfections or cracks in the road surface and freezes, expanding and pushing the tarmac apart. The water then thaws, creating bigger gaps in the road surface each time the freeze-thaw occurs. When traffic travels over the weakened section of road, the gaps cave in, creating potholes.

TfB says they are aware of the increase in defects, but they do not know where many of these additional issues have cropped up. Potholes can appear over-night, so a recently inspected road may have appeared fine, only to break up soon after. They are urging road users to report any problems they see.

Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport said: “We really need everyone on the roads to ‘be our eyes’ and take responsibility for reporting any defects they spot. Our online reporting tool is so easy to use and every pothole reported is inspected. We do have stringent criteria for the repair process, so not every pothole will be immediately fixed. But those that do not meet criteria for immediate repair will be closely monitored.”

Anyone can use the online reporting system – just visit www.buckscc.gov.uk/telltfb.

If you spot a pothole that you think requires urgent attention, please call TfB to report – 01296 382416.