Lessons from A12 delayed roadworks will be learnt but blanket 40mph limit was necessary – Highways England

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge inspects the delayed roadworks on the A12 with Aran Nugent of Highw

South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge inspects the delayed roadworks on the A12 with Aran Nugent of Highways England.

Work to repair the A12 between Ipswich and the Essex border, covered by a 40mph speed limit, began in December and was due to finish in March.

Motorists have faced a 40mph speed limit on the A12 outside of Ipswich since January.

Motorists have faced a 40mph speed limit on the A12 outside of Ipswich since January.

Highway bosses responsible for the delayed A12 roadworks which have taken six months have pledged to learn from their mistakes to prevent future “frustrating” disruption.

Work to repair the A12 between Ipswich and the Essex border, which is covered by 40mph speed limit, began in December and was originally due to finish in March.

But Highways England have twice pushed back the completion date, insisting the £5 million scheme will finish at the end of June.

Bad winter weather, plant breakdowns, the rail strike and the dual carriageway being in a “greater state of repair than originally envisaged” have all been blamed for the delay.

Today, new South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge inspected and discussed the repair work with Aran Nugent, service delivery team leader for Highways England.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Nugent said: “We need to learn lessons from this and improve going forward. “I have sympathy for the motorists. I travel myself so I completely understand and share the frustrations.

“It is not our intent to cause people delays and frustration. We want to do a good job and be well received by the public

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“Putting it in context, the 40mph speed limit is there for safety reasons, but the duration of the scheme – we could do better.

“We are going to look back at the history of the scheme, how we developed it, how we actually delivered it and see what we can improve on for the future.

“Improvement points would include working in more discreet sections so the speed limit isn’t as great as it is now throughout the whole length of the scheme, to try to shorten that speed limit and limit the impact on the travelling public.”

The road has been resurfaced and crash barriers have been repaired or replaced during the overnight works.

Mr Nugent explained a blanket 40mph speed limit was enforced due to large sections of coned-off “incomplete barriers” – required to allow some traffic on the A12 at night.

He said: “Throughout the length of the road, there are certain places where are there incomplete barriers; quite large sections which are coned off at the moment.

“It is really unsafe to travel greater than 40mph where we have incomplete barriers.

“The reason there are incomplete barriers is so we can keep traffic on the A12 at night while we are doing the work.

“So with those locations throughout the scheme, it meant that we had to keep the speed limit at 40mph throughout the whole length.

“It’s easier to get traffic to travel at 40mph from a certain point rather than increase the speed where there isn’t that barrier and then decrease it again. That generates its own risks.

“We have recently started taking that speed limit off and reducing that length of speed limit.”

Mr Nugent said strong winds and wet weather caused four weeks of delays alone.

He said: “It is unsafe to set out traffic management if it is too windy, like carrying signs across the road, and the wet weather means that we won’t get the quality of material laid that we would like to.”

Asked if the work could have started this summer instead, Mr Nugent said: “It could, but it was really in such a poor state that we needed to do it then.

“We really couldn’t have tolerated the roads in that condition for any longer than that so we needed to do it at that time.”

He added: “We would prefer to deal with this type of work in the summer but the way we were funded recently under Highways Agency meant that our budgets were annualised so we had to start planning for this scheme last year and it took us up to that point to finish the design and get all the work prepared to start the work in December.”

He said work is due to be completed by the end of June, but said he could not “100% guarantee” work could finish in July.

Speed restrictions are currently being removed.

Mr Cartlidge described the delayed work as “shocking”.

He said: “This work was meant to be carried out between January and March. It is now going to go up until the end of June, so that is three extra months. In other words, it is double the length of time originally promised.

“That really is very frustrating. I have received lots of correspondence from constituents who are extremely disappointed about this. I totally understand where they are coming from.

“I have driven with the team from Highways England up and down the stretch that has been the subject of this work and we talked about the lessons that are going to be learnt. The main one they said to me is that, if they are going to do this again, they would aim to do it in smaller sections of speed limits rather than one large section of speed limit.

“In other words, you do it section by section, rather than having 40mph for the entire length of the work.”

He added: “I am going to write to the Office of Rail Regulation. They must be aware of this. There has to be accountability. Highways England can’t just do this and think ‘well no-one is going to haul us over the coals for it’

“I am going to hold them to account, and I will be discussing this with the Transport Secretary.

“What we can’t allow to happen again is this sort of work starts and there is no communication, there are massive delays – there maybe good reasons for delay. If there is, communicate it and be reasonable. Tell people realistically what the date is. Don’t give people the wrong impression. Saying January to March; whether that was unrealistic, who’s to say? The key thing is to learn the lessons and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

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