A day in the life of a highways engineer

We spoke to Gina to find out what the job is really like…

“My role is to investigate and find remedies for maintenance problems on the public highway within my area. I cover central Winchester, Twyford and Shawford. Our office is in Bishop’s Waltham but most of the time I work remotely, in a highways vehicle.

I receive customer enquiries from our Highway Operations Centre through an app on my phone. There can be anything from wobbly paving slabs, dangerous trees, floods, collapsed manhole covers and potholes. I have even had a report of an unexploded ordnance which meant we had to close all the roads in central Winchester and evacuate nearby residents! I also deal with enforcement issues where people can sometimes be working illegally on the highway, meaning the work needs to be stopped and legal notices need to be served to those responsible.

To plan my day I need to prioritise what might be a danger to the public – an issue in a high pedestrian area, or on an ‘A’ road, for example.

Most issues will need a site visit and I do enjoy getting out and about and meeting people. Firstly, I need to investigate and establish ownership and responsibility for the defect, then decide what action is needed. I order the works required from a list of standard repairs and order the correct traffic management to complete the job quickly and safely. For drainage / flooding issues I come up with proposals to alleviate the problem either by cleansing the existing system or by adding to it. I need to keep the Highway Operations Centre and residents updated on what’s happening.

No two days are the same! Some days I’ll have a plan, but then something urgent will come up which needs immediate attention. Sometimes we can be called by the police or other emergency services to provide assistance to incidents by closing roads and clearing debris following road traffic collisions and damage to street furniture.

Mostly I work weekdays, 8.30am to 4.30pm. I’ll do the odd Saturday if the works can only be done at the weekend. When available I can work over the weekend especially when the weather is bad – for example, during Storm Eunice, when trees were literally falling down in front of us! The flexibility of the job is fantastic, and this meant when my children were younger, I was still able to do the school drop off and pick up.

We are a really close team and work well together. My colleagues and I in the surrounding areas will cover for each other when needed. We have a weekly team meeting, and a wider monthly meeting for the whole South Hampshire team.

I started my highway career in administration, but as I learnt more about the service we provide I became more interested in the technical side of the work. I worked my way up from technician to eventually becoming a highway engineer. I’m still always learning on the job and am required to keep my qualifications up to date by attending refresher courses. Additional funding is available for higher qualifications in Civil Engineering.

Most of all I love the independence and managing my own workload. And thinking on my feet, because you never know what will come up on the day.”