In March 2015, Labour Councillors first called upon the County Council to overhaul how it managed the County’s roadworks. This was after a month of unprecedented multiple road closures and diversions had almost brought Ipswich to a standstill. At the time, Kier, the County Council’s highways contractor, tried to tell Councillors how they were going to do things much better than before they first took over repairing the roads in October 2013.
Since then, there has been little evidence of improvement in the last eighteen months, with roadworks, either for utilities or for the Council’s own road repairs, being set up across Ipswich with no co-ordination of overall planning. The County Council seems unable to understand the economic strain and misery these poorly co-ordinated works cause to Ipswich. Recent multiple works on the town’s main radial routes have again raised questions from residents and daily commuters.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Cllr Sandra Gage has repeatedly challenged both the County Council and Kier about the complete lack of co-ordination or notification to the public when roads are closed for repairs. She said “Parts of Ipswich are frequently inaccessible or traffic unreasonably delayed due to a series of uncoordinated road closures. Suffolk County Council has a duty to manage the road network, and any road works on it. Kier is as much at fault as the utility companies with works start and finish dates constantly changing. No one at the County Council seems to listen to the complaints raised by Ipswich residents, or Ipswich Councillors.”
Elsewhere in the country other highway authorities have brought in a permit scheme, to manage roadworks, so that all who want to work in the highway have to apply for a ‘permit to work’. Then if they run over, or leave the traffic lights in without any works taking place, they will face a penalty. Cllr Gage has repeated asked the County Council why Suffolk does not have the same system here, to reduce the disruption, and to ensure a greater level of control of road works in the County. She said “Labour Councillors have given up trying to get a clear understanding of what is happening on our roads; it’s an uncoordinated mess. A permit scheme would require everyone to book and stick to the dates advertised, and we would all know what’s happening. I ask that as part of the Star’s Campaign we all ask again that the County Council brings in a roadworks permit scheme.”