ENVIRONMENT AND TRANSPORTATION SELECT COMMITTEE
SCRUTINY WORKSHOP - 11 JUNE 2008
Council Chamber, Castle Avenue, Winchester
SUBJECT: STATE OF HAMPSHIRE ROADS
Councillor P. Hutcheson
Councillors: F Allgood; Mrs C Bailey; J Bryant; Mrs A Buckley; Mrs E Byrom; M Cartwright; M G Cooper; N Clarke; B D Dash; C Davidovitz; Mrs P Devereux; P Edgar; K Evans; E Gale; K Gill; B T Gurden; Mrs K Heron; G Hockley; M Kemp-Gee; M J Kendal; A Ludlow; P K Mason; E Neal; Mrs P G Peskett; Mrs J Porter; D Simpson; T K Thornber CBE; Mrs M Tucker; Mrs S Wheale
Officers: Alan Giles, Clive Griffiths, Colin Hinxman, Philippa Smart, Steve Spender
1. Welcome and Introduction
Cllr Hutcheson welcomed everyone to the workshop, and explained the object of the scrutiny, and how the Environment and Transportation Select Committee had chosen the topic.
The object was to scrutinise the current response by Hampshire County Council to the negative public perceptions of highway maintenance and to influence the longer tem strategy for managing the highway asset.
He hoped that Members would bear in mind, during the course of the morning, that there would be the possibility of making recommendations at the end.
2. First session
How is public opinion influencing decisions on highways maintenance ?
Officers outlined trends in public opinion about highway maintenance with reference to surveys in 1999 and 2006, and examples of ways in which changes had been implemented in response in the past. Current key aspects of high importance to the public but least satisfaction were:
- condition of the footways
- road surfaces
- repairing damaged roads
Results from further research carried out in 2008 on the above four areas of main concern were shared; the purpose of the research had been to explore the issues in greater depth, and to find out how resident satisfaction levels could be improved. Recommendations for improvement covered both changes needed to working practices as well as to the interface with the public.
From the presentation it was clear that there was scope for both public opinion influencing highways maintenance decisions as well as highways department work contributing to more positive public perceptions, although it was acknowledged that perceptions are often influenced by other highways and transport issues such as congestion.
Discussion points within the first session included:
a) clarification about the sampling used in the survey
b) the importance of checking the quality of highway and footpath maintenance and workmanship
c) the role of the Hampshire County Council contact centre in responding to public reporting of local road condition issues eg. potholes, and feedback
d) the balance of attention to rural and urban roads, and to B roads and unclassified roads in urban areas
e) what factors lie behind the drop in public satisfaction with the quality of road maintenance eg. increase in usage of the network, increased expectations, the condition of verges and ditches etc
f) whether or not money spent on improving perception is money well spent
g) the key role that local Highways offices play in responding to highway and footpath issues, and other matters
3. Second session
Measuring the Highway Condition
A presentation was made on the different methods used to measure the highway condition, together with results since the year 2000. Problems with the nationally set methods, relating to consistency of methods used over time, and hence the comparison of results, were acknowledged. Evidence was given that showed no apparent correlation between measurements of the highway condition and public perception of the quality of maintenance and of the general condition of road surfaces.
a) whether neighbouring areas' populations perceptions of shared roads are similar
b) possible factors that might be affecting the variation in district opinion eg. proportion of rural roads, the dominance of a particular road in one area, such as the A32
c) how the sides of rural roads are changing, affected by increased traffic and bigger vehicles
4. Third session
Proposals for improvement
Four areas for improvement were outlined:
- Highway condition, through LAA targets
- New Term Highways Contract
- Asset Management principles
a) how realistic and challenging are the LAA targets
b) whether greater joint working with District Councils could increase resources for monitoring drains and potholes
c) the effect the new Term Highways contract will have on quality of repairs
d) clarification about responsibilities in relation to verges, grass cutting, dropped kerbs
e) that there is a central government early day motion to address the issue of effective working between utility companies and local authorities
f) the impact of Motorway diversion routes on Hampshire's roads
5. Summary and close
Cllr Hutcheson invited Members to put their conclusions in the form of recommendations. Those agreed were:
1 That the weightings assigned to urban and rural roads are revisited, with a view to greater consideration for rural road maintenance, as well as that of B roads and unclassified roads in urban areas.
2 That reports are made to the Environment and Transportation Select Committee in six months time regarding:
a) progress with enhancing Hampshire County Council's leadership role
in taking `ownership of the road' eg. co-ordinating works on the roads by the utilities etc
b) quality monitoring of responses to highways issues reported to the call
3 That Hampshire County Council explores powers under the Traffic Management Act to co-ordinate the work of the utility companies in order to give this higher priority
4 That the Highways Department explores the scope for working closely with District Councils on resourcing the local monitoring of the condition of the roads
5 That Members are involved in the development of descriptions for levels of service within the asset management framework
6 That a report is made to the Environment and Transportation Select Committee on the impact of County Council advertising on road contractor vehicles and at the site of road repairs in twelve months
7 That the issue of the width of rural roads is considered by the Environment and Transportation Select Committee
Cllr Hutcheson thanked everyone attending for their participation in the workshop, including thanks to officers for their presentations and preparation work.