A contractor whose roadworks brought bumper-to-bumper tailbacks to one of the busiest routes around Preston was ordered to fill in the hole they had dug and leave the site, after highways bosses found that they had not stuck to rules intended to reduce disruption to motorists.Advertisement
Temporary traffic lights were installed on the A6, Garstang Road, in Barton almost a month ago. They were put in place close to the junction with Thorntrees Avenue while work was carried out to connect a new housing estate to the drainage system.
However, the hold-ups that might be expected with any halt to the usual flow of traffic soon morphed into something far more chaotic, according to residents who have spoken to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
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Queues of almost two miles and waits of up to 20 minutes were common at peak times – and particularly at the weekend.
Lancashire County Council revoked the permit for the works – which included a stipulation that traffic must be “manually” controlled for 12 hours a day so that any delays could be responded to – on 20th November. The authority gave BTG Contracting Ltd. 24 hours to repair the road – and fined them for every additional day they remained thereafter.
Rosemary McLean, who lives on the A6 itself, said that residents had found themselves in an unnecessarily “stressful” situation.
“Like many people in the surrounding area, we avoided going out of the house as far as possible, as we could not face the traffic. It was often queuing back to the Broughton roundabout [heading north], with long lines queuing going into Preston.
“Whenever I did pass the temporary lights, it was not unusual to see only a couple of workmen actually doing something to the road – then they would seem to pack up work between 2.30 and 3pm. As far as I know, very little work was done on Saturdays, with none on Sundays,” Rosemary said.
Barton Parish Council’s vice-chair John Parker said that the works had been executed “very poorly” – and added that the impact was significant, especially for local businesses.
“People weren’t going to Barton Grange Garden Centre or places like Billy Bob’s, the Copper Kettle or the chippy – because it was just too much hassle.
“Between 7am and 7pm, you would have a tailback of approximately a mile and a half in each direction. It could take you anything from 10 to 20 minutes to get through the lights.
“People were taking shortcuts around Langley Lane and Barton Lane – basically creating rat runs, which was causing quite a lot of disruption for local residents,” added Cllr Parker.
He believes that the works were not complete when the firm was forced to leave and said that if and when they are re-started, better advance notice must be displayed along the route in order to allow people to find suitable alternatives if they choose.
A spokesperson for Lancashire County Council said: “It is the role of our highway regulation team to agree conditions with companies which apply to carry out work on the highway with the aim of ensuring it is carried out efficiently, and with as little disruption to road users as reasonably possible.
“In recognition that Garstang Road at Barton is a very busy road, the permit for the recent work to complete a new foul water connection for a nearby housing development required the work to be carried out seven days a week – and for traffic to be managed manually between 7am and 7pm.
“Our inspections found that these conditions were not being met, resulting in unnecessary levels of disruption, and the permit was revoked on 20th November, giving the contractor 24 hours to reinstate the road and leave the site.
“The traffic management was removed on 24th November and we are currently working to ensure the contractor reinstates the road markings and removes all other associated equipment used during the works. They will continue to accumulate financial charges for ‘overstaying’ the permit until this is completed.”
BTG Contracting did not respond to a request for comment.
As the LDRS revealed in August, the county council – which is responsible for almost all non-motorway routes in Lancashire, except in the Blackpool and Blackburn areas – handed out more than £1m in fines to utility firms last year for breaches to roadworks permits.
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