South East Water – 90% of customers to be metered by 2020

South East Water expects to have installed 375,000 water meters in total by 2020, which means almost 90 per cent of customers in its region will pay only for the water they use.

The water company’s metering programme began in Kent five years ago and has been progressing through the county on a street by street basis.  Households in Herne and Seasalter are next in line for  South East Water’s programme to install domestic water meters. The company will be fitting meters for customers in the towns and surrounding villages, if one is not already installed.

Oluseyi Onifade, South East Water’s Metering Manager said:

“By moving to a water meter, customers will have control over their water use. Once we introduce the metered charge, like gas and electricity bills, customers only pay for what they use. It’s a fairer way to pay and if they use water wisely and don’t waste it, they could also see their water bills reduce.”

“Water meters help manage demand in water stressed areas as they help us detect leaks and encourage customers to think about their water use.

“Research has found customers with a water meter use 10 per cent less water than those who are unmetered as it encourages people to think about how they use water.”

Once the installation of meters has completed in Herne and Seasalter, the programme will move into Yorkletts and Chestfield later in 2016.

Stonehenge tunnel – could an A303 bypass really go south of Salisbury?

A tunnel under Stonehenge might not be built at all – if a radical alternative to build a 25-mile bypass of the ancient site in Wiltshire ends up being a better option than digging under the stones.

Highways England has confirmed it has asked its design planners to consider a fourth option to take end the A303 nightmare at Stonehenge, one which will fundamentally change the way motorists cross Salisbury Plain at the gateway to the West.

That option would be some sort of new road or road enhancements to divert the A303 miles to the south of Stonehenge – even as far south as Salisbury – before the road was reunited with its current course in the middle of Salisbury Plain at Wylye.

It would, in effect, create a 25-mile long bypass for the ancient stones, and could well be included in a list of options that are put out to consultation next year.

Last week, Atkins/Arup were awarded a £17.5 million contract to work up a series of options to be designed to solve the conundrum of having a major national trunk road pass within a few feet of the country’s most globally-famous monument.

The Government is said to be keen on a short tunnel of around a mile and a half long, that would take the A303 under Salisbury Plain at Amesbury, emerging a bit further west near the junction with the A360 Salisbury-Devizes road.

But a growing number of heritage experts, historians and local campaigners are opposed to that idea. Many want a longer, more expensive tunnel which would start further east of Amesbury, and do less damage to the entire World Heritage Site at Stonehenge, which stretches more than five miles either side of Stonehenge. The area where the ‘short tunnel’ would emerge on the east includes the site of Britain’s oldest pre-historic community, leading archaeologists to call for a longer tunnel instead.

As well as a short tunnel and a longer tunnel, many campaigners are calling for no tunnel at all, and proposing other works to the A303 to reduce traffic impact on the stones.

But now, a leaked email from Highways England suggests a southern bypass route could also provide an alternative to a tunnel.

It is not clear exactly where such a road would go. In the process in the early 2000s for a tunnel which were eventually ditched by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, diverting the A303 more locally through neighbouring villages to the north and south of Stonehenge were dropped.

One route could see the A338, which passes along the Winterbourne Valley from the A303 to Salisbury, be upgraded, with A303 traffic then diverted back up the Wylye Valley along the A36.

But the Highways England email appears to raise the possibility of a ‘southern bypass’ for Salisbury itself, which would complete the ring road around the south of the city. The location there is currently the subject of a major row over housing proposals in the water meadows to the south of the city’s cathedral, and fears would grow if they were to include a completion of the ring road.

The total distance of such a diversion would be more than 25 miles, around ten miles longer than the current straighter distance along the A303 past Amesbury and Stonehenge between its junction with the A338 in the east and the A36 in the west. A shorter alternative to divert the A303 with a completely new road south of Amesbury and Stonehenge would face a huge number of challenges, from crossing the deep valley terrain of the Winterbourne, Woodford and Wishford Valleys.

“As part of our public engagement we are committed to considering the alternative routes that are being suggested and will look at these as part of our engagement work,” said a Highways England spokesman.

“The improvements are currently at an early stage of development. As we develop our proposals in compliance with the statutory processes, we will consult a variety of stakeholders, including local residents, businesses, road users and interested parties. We are aiming to start a wider and public consultation in early 2017,” he added.

Source: http://www.westerndailypress.co.uk/Stonehenge-tunnel-A303-bypass-really-south/story-28570140-detail/story.html

Ringway awarded £15m highways contract with Wiltshire Council

Ringway Infrastructure Services Limited have been awarded a £15m a year highways maintenance contract by Wiltshire Council today – months after they ended their previous contract due to complaints.

Coming into force from April, the new contract takes over from the previous one with Balfour Beatty Living Places which was terminated in September by mutual agreement two years ahead of schedule.

Ringway will now be responsible for the maintenance of roads, street lights and pavements, clearing drains, gritting roads and emergency repairs.

The contract will run for five years, with a possible extension of a further two years.

Philip Whitehead, cabinet member for highways, said: “I am delighted we have been able to award the contract to a partner we have had such a successful working relationship with in the past.

“I believe this deal is the best one possible for the people of Wiltshire in terms of value for money, but most importantly quality.”

The contractor, which ran the contract in Wiltshire between 1999 and 2013, was appointed following a thorough tendering exercise which saw four companies assessed in terms of price and quality.

Source: http://www.gazetteandherald.co.uk/news/14215158.Ringway_awarded___15m_highways_contract_with_Wiltshire_Council/

Foreign drivers’ £30million toll fines over a period of just one year

Figures show 433,556 drivers from abroad were issued with penalty charges after failing to pay the online fee for the M25 Dartford Crossing in Kent.

The charges were issued between November 30, 2014 and December 17, 2015 — a period during which an online system replaced paying in person at a toll booth.

Charges range from £2.50 to £6 depending on vehicle size and motorists have to pay between 6am and 10pm every day of the year.

But if the Dart Charge fee is not settled by midnight the day after the crossing, motorists get a £70 Penalty Charge Notice.

It is cut to £35 if paid within 14 days but increased to £105 if not. Because it takes time to track foreign drivers they are unlikely to pay up within the 14 days.

Highways England said: “Where the road user charge is not paid, enforcement action will be taken regardless of the road user’s country of origin. To date 433,556 PCNs have been passed to our European Debt Recovery Agency.”

The Dart Charge system has been plagued with problems since its launch.

329 motorists on M23 and M25 caught driving dangerously by police hiding in tractor

Officers driving a tractor to disguise their true identity have caught 329 motorists on the M23 and M25 doing dangerous and illegal things while driving.

An operation by Sussex and Surrey’s Roads Policing Unit used a tractor to film drivers from a better vantage point.

Drivers were caught not wearing seatbelts and using mobile phones.

Among the offenders was a lorry driver reading a map with no hands on the wheel, people using laptops while driving, and a lorry driver watching TV on his phone. Some drivers came up with what they thought were reasonable excuses.

They included someone who said they had a new girlfriend and “their song” came on the radio, so he had to call her.

Sergeant Sharon Kingston, who led the operation, said: “Some of the excuses our officers were given were unbelievables.”

Of the 329 offences, 209 were drivers using a mobile phone and six were people stopping on the hard shoulder.

Source: http://www.crawleynews.co.uk/329-motorists-M23-M25-caught-driving-dangerously/story-28512088-detail/story.html

Northumbrian Water tops best UK utility employer list

Northumbrian Water Group has topped the list of UK utility companies and been declared one of the best employers to work for in the UK.

The water company, which has more than 3,000 employees, was ranked the number one employer in the UK utilities sector on the Best Employers UK 2016 list by business media firm Bloomberg.

Northumbrian Water was also ranked 21st on the list out of 400 businesses surveyed independently by Statista for Bloomberg, to discover the UK’s best employers.

Louise Hunter, Director of Corporate Affairs at Northumbrian Water Group, said:

“We’re delighted to be named in the Best UK Employers list. This external recognition confirms what our employees already tell us – that we’re a great place to work, and in our own employee survey, 81% of people told us they are proud to work for the company.”

Since 2002, Northumbrian Water Group has given more than 100,000 hours back to local communities with its employee volunteering scheme, Just an hour.

The company also supports 9,000 young people a year with its employability programme.

The Best Employers list is based on a survey from a cross section of 15,000 people working for firms and or institutions with more than 500 employees in the UK. It was conducted anonymously through online panels, allowing people to openly have their say without influence from their employers.

Google’s self-driving cars are not as safe as first thought

272 failures and 13 close calls, says California Department of Motor Vehicles report

Driverless car might not be as safe as first thought, if Google’s latest report is anything to go by.

A document filed by Google with the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CDMV) said that Google’s autonomous vehicles experienced 272 failures between September 2014 and November 2015, and would have crashed 13 times if the test drivers had not taken over.

The incidents are documented in the Report of Traffic Accidents Involving an Autonomous Vehicle.

The incidents were reported because the CDMV had several stipulations when it gave Google and other self-driving car companies permission to test autonomous vehicles on public roads.

One was that manufacturers must record and report every “disengagement”, i.e. an incident when a human safety driver has to take over the controls of the vehicle before someone gets hurt or property is damaged.

Google fought hard against the rule. Ron Medford, the firm’s director of safety for the self-driving car project, said: “This data does not provide an effective barometer of vehicle safety. During testing most ‘disengagements’ occur for benign reasons, not to avoid an accident.”

However, Google’s lobbying was ignored and the first reports for the past year or so were due on 1 January. Google’s figures show that 49 autonomous cars, including Google’s own prototype, the Koala, and a modified Lexus RX450h, endured 341 ‘disengagements’ over 424,000 miles during the 14-month period.

These included errors such as cars unexpectedly handing control back to the test drivers, or the drivers having to intervene before running into a ditch, for example.

272 of the 341 reported ‘disengagements’ involved technology failures such as a communications breakdown, a sensor reading failure or a problem in steering or braking.

The human driver took control of the car of their own accord in the remaining 69 disengagements. This can happen quite regularly if the driver suspects that the car is about to do something hazardous.

Nevertheless, the reports suggests that self-driving cars are still not ready, and that it will be some time before drivers will be able to relax on the back seat while the car does all the work.

This is not the first time we’ve heard of incidents involving Google’s self-driving cars, but Google blamed such accidents on human error up until the release of the reports from the CDMV.

Google blamed a careless driver for an accident involving one of its cars last summer that resulted in three employees being taken to hospital with whiplash.

The company detailed the ins and outs of the crash, explaining how the three employees were involved in a collision between one of its driverless Lexus cars and another car during rush hour in Mountain View, California on 1 July.

Chris Urmson, who leads Google’s driverless car project, admitted that this wasn’t the first crash – it is in fact the 14th incident involving the driverless cars in six years – but was the first that resulted in injuries.

Urmson put the blame on careless drivers who are often not paying attention and thus slamming into the back of its vehicles.

“Our self-driving cars are being hit surprisingly often by other drivers who are distracted and not paying attention to the road. That’s a big motivator for us,” he said.

Source: http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2441621/googles-self-driving-cars-are-not-as-safe-as-first-thought

£2.4m Millhouse roundabout revamp could create more than 5,000 jobs and 1,100 houses

Work on a major £2.4m road improvement scheme aimed at reducing congestion in Worksop and bringing a boost to the town centre is due to begin next month.

The scheme will see traffic signals introduced at the Millhouse roundabout which links the A57, A60, B6024 Newcastle Avenue and St Annes Drive, between the M1 motorway and the A1(M).

Council chiefs said improvements will not only make journey times better for commuters but will also help “unlock” 75 hectares of land which could be used to boost employment in the town.

The scheme follows a transport and regeneration study of Worksop which was carried out jointly by Nottinghamshire County Council and Bassetlaw District Council

Work is due to begin on Monday, February 15 and is due to last for 32 weeks. The project is being jointly funded by the County Council and D2N2 – the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Advanced work begins on the scheme this week.

“This project will bring many benefits to Worksop, including helping to reduce congestion and improve journey times,” said Coun Kevin Greaves, chairman of the County Council’s transport and highways committee.

“It will also boost the town’s appeal for businesses to locate to and help attract developers to create new residential sites.

“The increase in available employment land has the potential to host up to 4,900 jobs in the town and, indirectly, generate around 1,100 more with the associated increase in trade and retail footfall.

“It is expected that this will also help accelerate housing growth, creating up to 1,600 homes.”

An illustration of the proposed works is available on the County Council’s website www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/millhouseroundaboutNWG

Source: http://www.worksopguardian.co.uk/news/local/worksop-2-4m-millhouse-roundabout-revamp-could-create-more-than-5-000-jobs-and-1-100-houses-1-7670135

Congratulations to all of the staff at Carrington West!!!

Congratulations to all of the staff at Carrington West – shortlisted at The News Business Excellent Awards – Business of the Year (0-20 employees)!

The awards are to be held at The Portsmouth Guildhall on Friday 12th  February and are hosted by The News, who For more than a decade have celebrated the very best in business and recognises the contribution of firms of all sizes in the area.

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This nomination is testament to Carrington West’s core values of Integrity, Passion and Excellence which are driving the company on to year on year 100% growth.

 

Carrington West have grown to a turnover of £18 million per year since inception in 2011 and want to hear from talented recruiters keen to be a part of the further expansion!

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We are looking for highly motivated people so if you feel you would enjoy working in a forward thinking, dynamic and rewarding company please get in touch.

 

Police take extra £900,000 in speeding course fees

Essex Police made almost £1m more from speed awareness courses last year than 2014 – leading some to question whether they are being used as a revenue source.

Official figures show the cash-strapped force, which has been particularly hard hit by government cuts because of its historically low council tax precept, raised £1.28m from the courses in 2015 – up from just £290,000 the previous year.

Of the nine forces which provided figures for both years, only Greater Manchester Police reported an increase, though this was only by £6,000 from £1.39m to £1.45m.

Former Southend commander Mick Thwaites “I honestly believe this is a dishonest way of dealing with motorists – we should be doing it for purely road safety reasons but, if it’s purely to increase the income and reduce costs around prosecution, then I think there’s a moral issue there.

“They need to prove it isn’t the case that it’s a revenue raiser and link it to the principles of road safety. We’ve reduced the amount of traffic cops to a fraction of what we had before when we have some of the busiest and potentially most dangerous roads in the country.”

Motorists speeding under a certain level are given the option of paying to take a speed awareness course rather than paying a similar fine and having points put on their licence.

Police forces then recoup a share of the course’s cost, usually about £35, which the National Police Chiefs’ Council claims is for “cost recovery” rather than revenue.

Southend transport councillor and independent police and crime commissioner candidate Martin Terry said he did not believe the courses could be used as a revenue stream.

He said: “I don’t think there’s any connection between the two – there’s a stark difference in the amount retained but, if fewer people were speeding, then the money wouldn’t be there.

“From what I understand, the speed awareness courses are very useful for people, and it may be more people are choosing to take them.

“The traffic division has had significant cuts over the last few years and, if this was a revenue raiser, that would suggest they had increased their staff when actually they’ve reduced it.”

The cost of Essex’s speed awareness courses have gone up according to Essex Police, but this does not appear to account for a £900,000 rise in retained fees.

The cost of the course was recently raised from £97.50 to £100, with the cost of course also being decreased, but the force did not appear to provide an explanation for the increase in retained fees.

A spokesman said: “Essex Police is a member of the Safer Essex Roads Partnership. The objective of this partnership is to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on the county’s roads.

“The partnership recognises that educating and changing drivers’ behaviour is a critical in reducing the number of road accidents.

“It decided to standardise the pricing structure of the courses it offers to encourage more people to take them up.

“Each course costs £100 which is the equivalent of the Fixed Penalty Notice amount of £100 (the lowest penalty value an offender might face for an offence).

“This did mean that the cost of the basic speed awareness course went up slightly from £97.50 to £100 but it did reduce the cost of the RiDE and NDAC courses, which encourages offenders to attend the other educational options offered.

“Anyone who is offered a course has the opportunity to attend a course in another force area if they wish.”

Source: http://www.highwaysindustry.com/police-take-extra-900000-in-speeding-course-fees/