Monday, 26 April 2021

Frequently asked questions about...gullies!

Following the February budget announcement that an injection of £4 million funding would boost Transport for Buckinghamshire's (TfB) gully clearance programme, work will begin from 4th May 2021. This additional investment will enable each of the 80,000 gullies on the road network to be cleared.

Ahead of the programme beginning, we've answered some of your most frequently asked questions about gullies and the gully clearing programme... 

What is a gully?

A road gully is a small pot placed along the edge of the road and covered from the top by gully grating, which is made of a steel frame. The main purpose of a gully is to collect surface water off the road and direct it to an existing drainage network, which includes a ditch system, a large soakaway or a water course.

What is a soakaway?

A soakaway is a drainage pit covered by a metal cover which many road gullies feed into. Its purpose is to allow Highway water coming into a gully to feed into this soakaway and drain naturally into the surrounding subsoil. They can get blocked with silt, and in times of high water tables (e.g. excessive rainfall and flooding), they will take a lot longer to drain away. This leaves gullies looking full due to the soakaway being backed up with no water penetrating the subsoil surrounding the area.


What is a grip and why do they need re-cutting?

A grip is a channel cut within a grass verge to allow running and pooling water from rural road surfaces into a parallel drainage ditch that normally runs alongside the road. Rural roads with no man-made gully drainage systems benefit from grips being cut. However, in recent years we have seen a rise in verge overruns by cars and vehicles blocking grips and stopping running water entering the ditch systems. It is important to maintain grips to ensure they are kept open and free of damage or grass growth to allow water to exit the highway and soak into the ditch systems.


How often will you clean a gully?

From the start of this new financial year we have started cleansing all gullies on an annual basis. Previously, we cleaned gullies on A and B roads on a cyclical basis and all other gullies were cleaned once every three years. In addition to this, we will also be cleaning out soakaways and ditches, which is something we have been unable to do routinely before due to budget constraints.


How many gully cleaning machines do you have?

We have three gully cleaning machines in house, once located at each area depot – Aylesbury, Wycombe and Amersham. However, this year we have also hired an additional four machines with operators, from our supply chain partners, which means a total of seven machines will be working across the contract.


When does your gully cleaning programme start?

Our new gully cleaning programme commences from 4th May 2021 with the cyclic programme and will continue until 31st March 2022.


How long can you spend on a stuck gully?

Sometimes, our crews come across a gully cover that is stuck, which means we can’t access it to clean it. Our crews do carry tools with them that can help in this situation, but they cannot spend longer than ten minutes trying to get access to a gully. If we cannot get access, we will record it on our system and return to release it.

Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Think, keep calm and just turn back

Think, keep calm and just turn back. A slogan we coined in 2019 as part of our new 'Respect our Workforce' campaign, designed to eliminate abuse directed at our customer facing team members.

Sadly, abuse towards our workforce is still an issue that we have to deal with on a very regular basis.

Our staff are sworn and shouted at, spat at, have rubbish thrown at them, are physically assaulted and have even been threatened with weapons. All too often, members of the public are even driving through road closures because they don't want to use the diversion route, putting our crews lives - and their own lives - at risk. 

Our staff are regularly facing abuse simply for doing their jobs. It's got to stop. 

We have taken the necessary action our end. We use bodycams. We have signs up advising of the use of CCTV on site and asking the travelling public to respect our workforce. We ask for our workers to be respected via social media. Ideally, we wouldn't even have to ask, but the reality of the situation is that it's still necessary to. 

Everyone deserves to feel safe at work. Everyone deserves to return home in one piece at the end of the day. 

Our team members; they're more than just that. They are mums and dads, brothers and sisters, friends. They have families to go home to safely at the end of the day. That is the bare minimum you expect when you go to work. It's something that everyone deserves, our workforce included.

We understand that our work and the work of our utility companies and supply chain partners can be frustrating for you, the travelling public. Closed roads and temporary traffic lights can add time to your already long day and stopping at a site where you can't see work happening can be the last straw on a bad day. 

We are the travelling public too. We get it. But it's still never an excuse to abuse our workforce.

That is why we are asking once again, that people think, keep calm and just turn back. 

Our workforce are here to do a job. They are here to look after our roads and make sure they're safe for you to travel on. Issues on the road are not the fault of our workforce, so please do not take out any frustrations you may have on them. 

It doesn't stop with the customer facing workforce, either. If you're speaking to someone on the phone, through email or via social media, please still remember to respect our workforce and treat them as you yourself would want to be treated. Swearing, threats and name calling are all unnecessary - and yet our workforce still deal with this on an all too regular basis. 

To ease your frustrations, it can help to plan ahead. Make sure you're checking your route on, a satnav or other route checkers online ahead of any journey's you make, as this will advise you of closures, diversions and delays. 

If you spot a defect, report it on Fix My Street where it can be allocated to the appropriate team - please don't make an abusive phone call to us about it. 

We know that roadworks cause frustrations at the best of times, but no one ever deserves to be abused simply for doing their job. 

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

Please think, keep calm and just turn back. 

Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Transport for Buckinghamshire is Preparing for Winter

The end of this year is looking rather different than we are used to, however Transport for Buckinghamshire’s (TfB) winter plan is still very much the same, to keep Buckinghamshire’s highways safe, no matter the conditions.


Buckinghamshire has over 3,000km of road network and not all of it will be gritted during the winter season, as limited resources available to TfB requires them to focus the service on 25 pre-selected priority routes that are required to keep the general traffic moving. The depots across the county have a combined total of 10,500 tonnes of salt, this includes an emergency supply held in Saunderton.


The decisions on whether to send out the gritters are made daily, based on local weather forecasts and road temperatures, rather than air temperatures. The readings are provided by monitoring stations around the county, with daily weather forecasts received showing the predicted ground temperature and dew point. The dew point is the point where air has cooled to a degree that it can no longer hold moisture. If the ground temperature is forecast to drop to zero, ice would be expected to occur on untreated roads. The gritters are likely to be sent out whenever road temperatures are forecast to fall below +0.5°c and ice is expected to form. The decision is not taken lightly as each run uses approximately between 65 and 85 tonnes of rock salt.


As well as the technical reports being a factor in the decision making, the experience and teamwork of TfB operatives also play a big role in deciding when to send the gritters out. Once the decision has been made, an update will be provided on TfB’s twitter pages, @TwitGritter and @tfbalerts as per previous years. The fluffy animal photos posted with the updates on @tfbalerts have proved to be a big hit with the public and generally looked forward to by the followers of the page.


There is never any guarantee that the roads will be completely clear of ice or snow, due to several factors such as a late change in forecast, or if the teams must wait for rain to clear before gritting as it cannot be applied during wet weather due to the risk it could be washed away. In severe cold weather, salt becomes less effective, and below -8°c even salt will not prevent ice from forming.


The winter service is not due to start until October however gritting crews have already been out for their pre-winter training, providing re-fresher training to current staff and training new operatives. Before the gritting season starts officially, all the vehicles will be thoroughly serviced, and inspected, and the drivers will re-familiarise themselves with the machines and ensure the equipment is working correctly during the winter parade held on Saturday 5th October 2020.


Transport Cabinet Member, Nick Naylor, said:


‘I am incredibly proud of the hard work demonstrated by TfB during this strange year and even more so with their impeccable planning, ready to keep the county safe during the inevitable cold snap. Without their dedication, travelling around Bucks during those frosty winter months would be near impossible and we need to keep those roads clear for our key workers. Thank you to all at TfB.’

Thursday, 14 May 2020

The challenges of winter for TfB

Covid-19 has been a trying time for the country, especially for those on the front line such as health care staff and emergency services. Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB) has been continuing to maintain the roads network across Buckinghamshire to ensure they are as safe as possible, so our emergency workers can travel to where they are needed most.


As well as our wonderful NHS, there are a number of workers around the county keeping public services running and TfB is extremely proud of its operational colleagues, who are still out there trying to keep things running smoothly.


Due to this commitment to service, the local road networks remain open and as a result, essential workers can travel and deliveries can be made to the vulnerable.


Whilst traffic volumes around Buckinghamshire are at an all-time low, TfB can get ahead of the game with much needed repair works on main traffic routes without causing major disruption. Our primary focus is to continue to keep roads in Buckinghamshire safe, particularly for emergency services, key workers and distribution of essential supplies. Safety for both our staff and the public is of the utmost importance. Social distancing and hygiene standards will be observed in accordance with government guidance whilst balancing the need for any safety defects to be repaired in the correct manner.


In the first few weeks we carried out repairs of the most safety critical defects, and assessed our planned programme of more extensive improvements in the light of many unknowns including likely availability of workers, materials, equipment. We have also been working with utility companies to see what changes need to be made, if any.


We are now actively progressing a wide range of road improvements, and even bringing some forward while the network is much quieter than normal. This is on the basis that ongoing road improvements are necessary to stop deterioration of the highway in the future, in line with current government guidelines, and the road network needs to be fit for purpose for when the lock-down ends as well as keeping essential workers moving safely now.


All of this has been going on as we have headed out of the winter service delivery period, which runs between from October until April. So what did we do over the winter period?


Winter usually throws an array of challenges at Transport for Buckinghamshire (TfB)! Most people associate winter with short days and cold weather, but it was storm Ciara and Dennis and the associated, almost relentless heavy rainfall, that reminds us that these can have just as great an impact on the travelling public.  Whatever the conditions, the TfB operational delivery team, strives to keep the highway safe.


In preparation for the 2019/20 winter, over 10,000 tonnes of salt were stocked in the depots for the fleet of 25 spreading vehicles, which operate from the four area bases.


The first two runs of the gritting season began on 27th October, which was very similar to the previous year. As the winter progressed, it became colder than last year, and with wet roads, increasing the risk of slippery surfaces, increased gritting was required. By the end of December, 25 runs were carried out - an increase of 9 on the previous year. Even Christmas night was a frosty one, so TfB gritter drivers were out gritting roads before people embarked on their Boxing Day journeys.


On a daily basis throughout the winter, TfB routinely monitors road surface temperatures gritting season in order to plan each day. It’s the road surface temperature (RST) that is important, so if there is a forecast of the RST dropping below +0.5°C and ice likely, the crews are alerted and gritters get ready to begin their routes.


The winter period began on 27th October and ended on the 19th April, with a total of 60 gritting runs completed.



December and January also saw a huge amount of rainfall. In normal seasonal weather, two gully emptying machines are permanently on the TfB contract, delivering the cyclical gully clearing programme each year.


During the period of extreme rainfall, it was a challenge to keep on top of the significant additional reactive work of clearing flooding sites.  Two additional machines were purchased in order to support the depots in the North and South of the County.


With constantly saturated roads and floodwater on the carriageway, there was a rapid deterioration of large areas of road surface, with the teams reacting to an influx of pothole reports on a daily basis.


In early February, two severe storms hit the County. When storm Ciara hit, the standby crews responded to over 150 tree related issues, ranging from branches to entire trees fallen across the carriageways. Work for the TfB gangs and supply chain partners included closing roads, clearing debris and attending to flash floods after very heavy isolated rain periods.


Just a week later storm Dennis prompted another 150 related callouts to approximately 30 trees with the remainder of the calls being flooding issues.  Many fields became saturated, with large amounts of run-off reaching the road network, leaving the road drainage system unable to cope.


So, in all elements, the winter period was non-stop for the operational and extended support teams at TfB who are on call 24 hours a day.


Transport Cabinet Member, Nick Naylor, said:


“I am incredibly proud of the hard work demonstrated by our winter crews at TfB. Without them, travelling around the County would, at times, be near impossible. Their work is invaluable, with many team members sacrificing Christmas celebrations and festivities to keep the network moving. I know I am not alone when I say that we really appreciate all that the teams do. Thank you!”


TfB aims to keep the travelling public updated with news regarding road closures, gritting updates and general roadworks via social media so, please follow TfB twitter @tfbalerts or the Facebook page, Transport for Bucks.





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!)

Like us on Facebook | Follow us on Twitter

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. 

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! 

Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook