Northumberland road improvements and transport projects on track despite pandemic

An update on the Local Transport Plan revealed that this year’s schemes are likely to be completed. v.1

Friday, 30th October 2020, 12:09 pm
Road improvement works have been continuing in Northumberland

Council bosses believe most if not all of this year’s planned road improvements and transport projects will get done despite Covid-19 difficulties and delays.

The Local Transport Plan (LTP) for 2020-21 features £18.6million of work, with £12.3million earmarked for road improvement schemes.

An update to the Wednesday, October 28, meeting of Northumberland County Council’s communities and place committee revealed that plenty of projects are taking place despite the pandemic, thanks to the hard work of staff.

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In excess of 40 miles of road are to be resurfaced this year and, by the end of September, more than 12 miles had been done since June, with almost 70 of the 168 projects completed.

The annual surface-dressing programme commenced on June 1, three weeks behind schedule, but was completed last month, improving the condition and overall safety of almost 48 miles of rural roads.

The micro-surfacing programme which is undertaken on more urban roads has also been done, refurbishing approximately 10 miles.

The meeting also heard about the good progress being made in relation to walking and cycling improvements, bridge repairs and road-safety schemes.

The report to councillors concluded: ‘Overall, despite delays caused by the initial lockdown and some loss of efficiency due to the working methods required for Covid-19 to keep the workforce and public safe, the capital programme is progressing well.

‘Staff and managers have performed extremely well in adapting to the new working environments necessary in relation to the pandemic, while often also having to take on additional responsibilities as part of the council’s response to the pandemic.’

It added: ‘Some delay and loss of efficiency with the LTP programme has been inevitable during this period, but the project teams are continuing to work to carry out programmes as quickly as possible and where appropriate continue seeking mobilisation of additional resources to assist design and delivery activities.’

Despite all this, the workload for the council’s teams is actually larger than in previous years after an additional investment of £15million for maintenance of U and C roads and footways was agreed for 2020-21 and 2021-22, an extra £11.4million was received from the Department for Transport in the summer, and the authority was also awarded £3.7million towards an overall £4.8million steel bridge refurbishment programme.

The council’s interim director for local services, Rick O’Farrell, said: “It’s a huge programme they are delivering under very difficult circumstances and I’m amazed that it looks like by the end of the year we will have delivered that programme.”

Head of technical services David Laux conceded that if anything falls behind, it will be the minor improvements scheme, because of the ‘sheer volume’ and the need for public consultations.

In response to a question from Cllr Rupert Gibson, there is an additional transport cost for jobs at present due to staff having to travel separately.

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