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An update from Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council

Dear resident, I know it has been a few weeks since I last wrote to you but I wanted to wait until after our full Council meeting yesterday to cover an important issue. Like all of you, as a local resident I am well aware of the damage done to our roads a few weeks ago by the combination of almost incessant rain and then freezing conditions.

I’m also aware that in many parts of Buckinghamshire this has been made worse by the construction traffic of HS2 and East West Rail (EWR). I wanted to write to you explain what the council is doing about the damage. Importantly, I want to give upfront assurance that Buckinghamshire’s roads are one of the biggest priorities for us as a council. We heard from residents during our budget consultation that this is one area you want us to really focus spending on. I must be clear that firstly we must give priority to giving the money for the services that we have a legal obligation to provide, like social care and children’s safeguarding. And it is morally right that we do so. Nevertheless, we fully understand that our roads are most residents’ real concern. This is why we are investing £100 million over four years in our road network, to fund improvements to our highways. Importantly, in the short term I was delighted to propose an amendment to our budget yesterday to release an extra £5 million from our Reserves to allow the Highways teams to intensify and extend their repairs to our roads from April onwards. Current situation Our teams are working round the clock to make roads safe and respond to a surge in reports of problems and issues. As is the case across the whole South-East region, I know many people are seeing potholes and other defects and are wondering what the council is doing about it. So I want to take this opportunity to explain just that. I also want to outline too the challenges we face when repairing damaged roads during the winter months. It’s also essential that we – as ever – provide value for money for our residents. Sometimes this means making a road safe with a temporary repair during winter before carrying out a longer term and more costly repair in better weather, so we can be more confident that the repair will last when we commit to the works. Providing value for money also means negotiating with HS2 and East West Rail so that they fund repairs to damage caused by their construction traffic. Potholes and road defects We will fix emergency repairs within two hours of being reported – these are classed as ‘category 1’ defects where the road is unsafe. We have repaired 209 of these this January, compared with 27 at the same time last year. We then have a further class of repairs (under ‘category 1’ and ‘2’) – those not classed as an emergency, but that do need urgent attention to prevent further deterioration. This year we’ve carried out 3,142 of these types of repairs compared to 1,260 at the same time last year. The reason we have seen this sharp increase is mostly down to the weather, namely a period of freezing weather followed by damp and wet conditions. The water expands when it freezes, pushing the tarmac apart and breaking up the road when it thaws. It’s happened across the network and has led to our teams ‘firefighting’ to cover all the repairs. We have crews out round the clock including weekend working. We’ve also seen the impact of the freeze and thaw on water pipes with a surge in leaks and burst pipes which obviously have to be repaired, but again are causing further disruption to the road network because a higher number of emergency road closures are needed. It’s a perfect storm, a familiar story of winter, and ultimately, our priority is to keep the roads safe, before we can undertake full repairs during warmer, drier conditions. It’s essential that you continue to report any defects to FixMyStreet so that alongside our regular inspections we can also be alerted to any issues as quickly as possible. Types of repairs we carry out These repairs are temporary to make the road safe, and then we schedule in a permanent repair for the damaged road. Why do we do it like this? It’s because:

  • A temporary repair allows us to complete far more repairs, it uses different crews, equipment and materials and is about making the road safe.

  • A permanent repair is a different, bigger job, needing longer road closures, different equipment, and is more costly. This is why we wait until the better weather to carry out these repairs; we don’t want to waste money on costly jobs that we know run a higher risk of failing.

I am very much aware that in some cases some of our temporary fixes don’t last long, but the reality is that the best time to fix road defects permanently is when the weather is dry. HS2/EWR damage The road network is also under considerably more stress because of the massive increase in HGV traffic from both HS2 and East West Rail. We do not think residents should be footing the cost for damage to our roads that’s directly caused by these projects. It means we’re in constant negotiation with both companies over road defects in various locations and I’m pleased to be able to give an update on some of these discussions. HS2 As a result of the council’s negotiations with HS2, we’ve secured the following:

  • Full reconstruction of Moorfield Road, Denham, 100% funded by HS2 – works completed

  • Full reconstruction of Station Road, Quainton, A41 to HS2 compound – 100% funded by HS2 and completed this January

  • Reconstruction of A40/A412 junction, Denham part-funded by HS2

We have also secured funding from HS2 to carry out repairs at:

  • Kings Lane, The Lee, Missenden

  • A40/A413 junction, Gerrards Cross

  • Durham Farm Lane, Wendover Dean

We are seeking funding from HS2 to repair:

  • Lawn Hill, Shipton Lee, Edgcott, from bridge eastwards

  • Broadway, Grendon Underwood

  • Frith Hill, Great Missenden

  • Fidlers Field, Snake Lane, Quainton

  • Main section of the A40 between the A412 and A413 at Denham

  • A41 Ludgershall turn, and other sections of the A41

  • Edgcott Road/Buckingham Road, from Edgcott to Gawcott

Finally, we’ve secured a ‘pothole fund’ with HS2 and using this money, we’ve repaired sections of road at Radclive Road, Gawcott and Charndon Road, Charndon. We will be identifying other areas where we will make use of a second tranche of this money and negotiations are in hand to secure further tranches of funding from HS2. East West Rail We’re very pleased to have secured East West Rail-funded permanent repairs to twelve road locations in the north of the county that have been impacted by East West Rail construction traffic. These are:

  • Queen Catherine Road, Steeple Claydon – works completed in October last year

  • Whaddon Road (Newton Approach), Newton Longville – works completed November last year

  • Whaddon Road, Newton Longville – works completed November last year

  • Verney Road (East of Addington) – works due early 2023

  • Little Horwood Road/Winslow Road – Works due early 2023

  • Little Horwood Road – works due early 2023

  • Buckingham Road, Herds Hill – works due spring 2023

  • Herds Hill – works due spring 2023

  • Sandhill Road, at three separate sections – works due summer/autumn 2023

  • Ox Lane and Lenborough Road – works due summer/autumn 2023

Many months hard work from both councillors and council officers has gone into securing funding from HS2 and East West Rail to fix the roads we believe they should be paying for, so I’m pleased to be able to give you this update today, along with assurances that we do know about these problems and we are working tirelessly to fix them. Overall, I want to thank you for bearing with us as we work round the clock to keep our roads safe. I know how frustrating it is experiencing difficult driving conditions and I hope this goes some way to explaining what the council is doing during this challenging winter and beyond. I want to close by also thanking our hard-working crews who are out in freezing, wintry weather, day and night, filling potholes and repairing defects and damage. Along with the gritting crews who are also working round the clock in cold and dark conditions, they are doing a great job in keeping us all safe. I urge you all to please keep reporting any defects you see so we can continue working on it. Yours, Martin Tett Leader of Buckinghamshire Council



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