Hampshire County Council
Environment and Transportation Select Committee Item 8B
24 March 2009
Scrutiny Review - State of Hampshire's Roads
Reply from Executive Member for Environment in response to recommendations from the Environment and Transportation Select Committee of 11 June 2008
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.
The weighting system was devised many years ago to enable a higher priority to be giving to repairing roads which carry more traffic. Those roads tend to be the classified network (A, B & C roads) and the busier urban roads. However the weighting system does not take into account local priorities or the consequences on condition of giving a lower priority to rural roads. The weighting system will soon be replaced by the Asset Management approach. This will enable maintenance allocations to be based on more accurate technical information on the state of repair and to also take into account other service dimensions; on which the Select Committee will continue to be consulted.
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
Hampshire County Council has always coordinated ALL works on the highway. The County Council also works in cooperation with all utility companies in ensuring that highway disruption is minimised whilst essential utility supplies are maintained to the residents and businesses in Hampshire.
Over the past few years the County Council has undertaken a series of training sessions to ensure that its coordinators are fully equipped to make the best use of legislation to control, direct and manage all works on the highway. Where appropriate, full use of duration challenges, directions, overrun charges and legal penalties are used to regulate utility AND highway works.
Recently Hampshire has taken the initiative of stepping up its performance measurement of all works on the highway. This has enabled us to identify poor performers and target them and assist them to improve their performance.
Further initiatives have been instigated to identify and target the most disruptive works and events. These initiatives will ensure that the works/ event promoter understands the disruptive effect of their works/event and undertakes measures to minimise them as far as possible.
b) quality monitoring of responses to highways issues reported to the call centre
This report sets out an update on Hantsdirect (Highways and Transport) performance, including quality monitoring of responses to highways issues reported to the contact centre.
This section sets out the performance of the contact centre in respect of roads and transport calls. Overall performance is positive, however there was a dip in the summer as a number of major services were moved into the contact centre, resulting in some temporary capacity issues. These capacity issues have subsequently been resolved and performance has returned to earlier levels.
Team Managers undertake call monitoring and evaluation. Calls are selected for assessment either as a result of an issue being raised by the service or data transfer team, or through a process of random selection as part of individual performance monitoring. These calls are evaluated against a number of weighted criteria including call handling, customer service, process compliance and data entry. Each component is given a score which is aggregated into an overall quality score
Quality Score (Average)
Issues concerning the quality of information transferred between Hantsdirect to Highway Offices are being recorded/monitored using an online achieve feedback form. Analysis of these reports identifies issues that are then addressed through team, individual and quality review meetings.
Quality Failure Rate
Note: Not all information quality errors are reported.
Ongoing Quality Review Meetings
To ensure continuous improvement quality review meetings between Hantsdirect Quality and Training managers and Highways staff take place regularly. Regular agenda items include:
(i) Script changes
(ii) Training and support requirements
(iii) Quality monitoring issues
(iv) IT System issues
The Highways and Transport branch are currently undertaking a Business Transformation project to improve customer service in the highways environment (including contact centre). As part of this project a number of stakeholder groups have been consulted to consider how we can improve our customer service.
Items currently being progressed include:
(i) Publication of clearly defined customer service standards
(ii) Improved information given to customers on highways defects
(iii) Web enhancements to improve `Self Service' options
(iv) IT improvements - Lagan/PEM/GIS
(v) Script changes
(vi) Clarification of Hampshire County Council/District/Borough/Parish responsibilities
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
There are already extensive powers given to highway authorities, under existing legislation, with regard to coordinating and managing the work of utility companies. Although concerns are raised from time to time, in reality, apart from the sheer volume of works carried out, there are not any serious issues and officers do not consider that additional powers are needed.
The TMA legislation does not provide any significant new powers to regulate utility works. Its primary changes are to ensure that Highway Works are treated the same as utility works, to improve the amount of works information supplied by all works promoters, and to reinforce existing controls under New Roads and Street Works Act 1992. The only new powers are those of permit schemes.
The requirement to treat County Council works the same as utility works allows the coordinators to have a more accurate picture of all disruptive works on the highway. The improved information allows the coordinators to make more informed decisions regarding coordination.
As noted above, under 2(a), County Council staff are regularly updated concerning the powers to control and direct works and make full use of them where needed. This use is backed up by performance measurement targeted against the worst performers.
Permit schemes are being investigated and the County Council eagerly awaits the outcome of the Kent County Council permit scheme. Across the Region, and nationally, there is great scepticism over whether the benefits outweigh the costs to Hampshire County Council and the public that would be incurred by running a permit scheme. Most Authorities believe that the same benefits can be realised by making more use of existing powers (as described above). It is likely that a permit scheme would only be beneficial as part of a whole raft of traffic management initiatives.
4 That the Highways Department explores the scope for working more closely with District Councils on resourcing the local monitoring of the condition of the roads
Inspections of roads and pavements fall under two main headings. The first covers the annual inspections which are used to measure the condition of the highways for planned maintenance works. This is a specialist function, requiring detailed training of inspectors (for pavement inspections) and is generally done using specialist machines on most roads as required by Government to ensure a national system is in place. The second kind of inspection, Safety Inspections, are intended to identify defects that need urgent attention, eg potholes in roads, cracked slabs on pavements, etc. It is in the identification and reporting of those safety related defects where there is scope for district staff to assist, particularly in town centre areas. We already have arrangements in place for encouraging district staff to report such defects and we will investigate what opportunities there are for increasing the scope of district involvement with regard to other things, such as overhanging hedges, materials deposited on the highway and illegal signs, etc.
5 That Members are involved in the development of descriptions for levels of service within the asset management framework
Officers would welcome the involvement of members in helping to develop a way of describing road and pavement condition that is meaningful to the layman.
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
A report will be prepared in 12 months to review how effective the new vehicle livery and works signing has been.
7 That the issue of the width of rural roads is considered by the Environment and Transportation Select Committee
There have been concerns for some years about the issue of incremental road widening by carrying out edge and verge repairs. Against this has to be balanced the authority's responsibilities in maintaining safe roads. Scrutiny topics are a decision for the Select Committee.