I am determined that we can and will improve the state of our roads.
I took on the portfolio for highways roughly a month ago, and making sure the investment and activity we all want to see to help our road network recover from the ravages of the winter weather has been my top priority.
Essex County Council is investing almost £5 million extra this year in highways, because we know it is a priority for our residents. This year we are investing almost £5 million extra after a particularly bad winter. Much of that will go on fixing potholes, not least in town centres like Colchester, where it’s so important we attract business and consumer spending and that the roads and paving are fit for purpose.
We are already seeing results. I am writing this on Wednesday June 13th and, in the early hours of this morning, our crews were fixing potholes in Colchester town centre, and working on larger, permanent repairs in the High Street that will look better and prevent further potholes forming. Earlier on the same evening we were fixing potholes on St John Street. This is work that is being replicated from Basildon to Braintree, Chelmsford to Canvey and up and down our county.
Our Highways crews and partner companies can’t do it all at once, there is a lot to catch up after the freezing winter, but we are making progress with the numbers of potholes on the network now steadily reducing. During May we have repaired 1,314 potholes on our main road. It is of course a never-ending task, with new reports of potholes being added to the list all the time.
Sometimes, we do have to go and fill in a pothole in a hurry if it is safety-critical. It may also be that the follow-up permanent repair has to be planned in, because it needs a road closure, and so that will take a while longer. Please be assured we have a plan, and indeed a high-tech priority assessment system, to make sure we get to the ‘worst-first’ and use your money as efficiently as we can.
We also need to take advantage of local knowledge, and that’s why I am introducing a way for district, city and borough councils to send us their local list of the top defects which need our attention.
Don’t forget, you can help us directly - although we regularly inspect every road, we can’t be everywhere all the time, so if a pothole suddenly appears, or gets dramatically worse, you can tell us online at www.essex.gov.uk/highways so we can assess it for repair.
I know only too well that potholes can be not just dangerous (we fix those quickly) but also very frustrating, particularly when smaller ones doesn’t get fixed for a while. We have the advantage that our highways partner, Ringway Jacobs, has access to new technology and approaches, which we will be seeking to utilise in order to speed up the repair process. People understandably grumble when we close a road for resurfacing, but this is a crucial contribution to preventing potholes in the first place, usually for several years – so if this is the case where you live, please do please bear with us. A little bit of local pain and inconvenience will be worth it for the long-term gain.