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, 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.

Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook 

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

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 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. 

Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook 

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. 

Follow us on Twitter | Like us on Facebook