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.