Potholes: Council still shelling out thousands in compensation for damaged cars

Drivers whose cars have been damaged after driving into deep potholes on Oxfordshire’s roads have claimed nearly £42,000 in less than two years.

Last year Oxfordshire County Council shelled out £25,653 and so far this year has paid out £16,043 to annoyed drivers.

In 2016, the authority paid £1,827.91 to a single motorist whose vehicle had been damaged on the B4526 in South Oxfordshire.

Other large sums paid out include £1,739 and £1,725 after damage caused on South Oxfordshire roads.

And this year’s largest successful claim was for £1,130, caused by a pothole on the A4260, just north of Oxford.

An Oxford resident sick of the state of the roads near his home in Blackbird Leys said something must be done by both Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils.

Brian Chadwick, who has lived in the area for over 20 years, said: “It’s dreadful. It clearly needs some work. They’re really bad.”

But he said the number of claims was not representative of how much damage around the county because people will not make a claim.

He added: “All of the people cannot be bothered. It’s too much of a rigmarole. You have got to go to a garage and get a report done.”

The county council said the poor state of roads in Oxfordshire is a ‘national situation’, but the government insists it has given millions to Oxfordshire sort out the problem.

Of 75 successful claims around the county in 2017, 30 of them have been for less than £100. The smallest was for £17.50 after damage was caused on a road in Charney Bassett.

Major roads in Oxford such as the Cowley Road and Abingdon Road are controlled by the county council while the city council maintains the others.

The £41,696.83 claimed over 2016 and 2017 is way down on what the council paid out in the 2012/13 financial year, when payouts topped £67,899.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Paul Smith said: “There is nothing unique or unusual about Oxfordshire in terms of claims relating to pothole damage or potholes in general. This is a national situation. As is the case with all councils each claim is considered on its individual merits.”

But a Department for Transport spokesman said: “We are giving Oxfordshire County Council £2.3m this year which is enough to fill more than 43,000 potholes.

“On top of this, we are providing nearly £90m over five years for road maintenance, which the council can use to stop potholes before they develop.”

The spending will last until 2020/21.

Susan Trafford previously appeared in the Oxford Mail in January when she said roads in Kennington were pothole-ridden.

While she said things have improved since, she said she is sure the roads will deteriorate quickly when cold weather hits.

She said: “In the next frost, [the potholes] will open up. They’re going to go again. They haven’t done it properly. Years ago they used to dig it out and then they filled it again. It’s just a patch-up job now.”

Highways bosses in Staffordshire and Derbyshire have said that road surfaces around junctions are up to scratch after a national report says the time it takes drivers to stop in an emergency is double what was previously thought.

Research agency, the Transport Research Laboratory, claims that the average thinking time that motorists need to stop in an emergency is 1.7 seconds. This is more than double the 0.67 seconds set out in the Highway Code. And this does not factor in the speed vehicles are traveling at.

Road safety charity Brake has worked out that the average stopping distance, including thinking and braking distance, is 11 metres at 30mph and 25 metres at 70mph based on the new calculation; leading to safety concerns.

Now the Road Surface Treatments Association has urged highways bosses to ensure that roads are treated with special a ‘high friction’ coating which help cars to stop sooner.

Howard Robinson, chief executive at the association said: “High friction surfacing is a well-proven road surface that makes potentially high risk road locations far safer for both pedestrians and drivers by providing a skid reduction of up to 50 per cent.

“Unfortunately due to perceived concerns over cost and durability many councils have reduced significantly their use of high friction surfacing in recent years.”

However, councils in Derbyshire and Staffordshire have said that the surfaces used on roads in their areas are appropriate, and are regularly maintained.

Staffordshire County Council has policies in place which see it deal with potential skidding issues at junctions.

A spokesman for Derbyshire County Council said: “We have for many years used such products in appropriate locations to provide higher levels of skid resistance where required, and continue to use them.”

Mr Robinson said: “Using high friction surfacing saves lives and money particularly when you consider that the associated accident and investigation costs for non-motorway accidents is calculated to be £1.4 million. Councils must balance the cost of high friction road surfaces against their legal requirement to ensure that roads are safe and the financial cost of accidents.

“The reality of the increased emergency stopping distances underlined the need to have a high level of skid resistance at potentially dangerous road junctions and crossings. Councils should reconsider and increase their use of high friction road surfaces.”

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Scottish Water diverts river in £120m water mains project

Scottish Water has completed a key piece of engineering on a £120m water mains improvement project by diverting a river in East Ayrshire to enable the pipe to be installed.

Contractors working for the utility company on the project, which will benefit more than 200,000 people and businesses in much of Ayrshire and parts of East Renfrewshire, last week diverted a short stretch of the Craufurdland Water near Kilmarnock to enable them to install the water main beneath the river bed.

The operation was carried out by Caledonia Water Alliance (CWA) to enable a 60 metre stretch of the permanent riverbed in countryside near Craufurdland Castle to run dry before they could excavate and install the 900mm steel pipeline in dry conditions while allowing the river, and its inhabitants, to continue flowing downstream relatively uninterrupted.

The work, which took about five days to complete, involved the excavation of a temporary channel which needed to be wide enough and deep enough to carry the volume of water that naturally flows along the watercourse.

The channel was lined with a plastic sheeting to prevent the banks scouring away and to prevent any siltation of the downstream watercourse.

Straw bales and one tonne builders’ bulk bags filled with gravel acted as a barrier to redirect the watercourse in to the new channel that was excavated so that the water flow passed around the working area.

The watercourse was identified as significant and well stocked by the Ayrshire Rivers Trust (ART) who were engaged by Scottish Water to carry out ecology screening of watercourses where the pipeline crosses through them.

Scottish Water is improving the water supply network by installing more than 30 miles of new water mains to connect the system in Ayrshire with the Greater Glasgow area’s network.

Customers across a large part of Ayrshire currently receive their water from a single source, the Bradan Water Treatment Works, south of Straiton in South Ayrshire.

The water is supplied to customers’ taps via a 34-mile-long trunk water main installed about 50 years ago which runs from the Bradan Water Treatment Works to a point north of Irvine.

The construction of the new strategic water main, which is expected to be completed in 2020, will connect the Bradan water supply network to the network served by the Milngavie and Balmore water treatment works, north of Glasgow.

When complete, the investment will enable Scottish Water to transfer water from Glasgow to Ayrshire, and vice-versa, if required.

Graham wins £19m Highways England deal for major A-roads

Graham has been awarded a package of road improvement works by Highways England covering four major A-roads in the east of England.

The £19m contract will see Graham take on safety improvements, surfacing and technology schemes on the A1, A11, A12 and A47.

The projects extend from Peterborough to Norwich and through to Lowestoft via Great Yarmouth and form part of a Collaborative Delivery Framework (CDF), which groups projects dependent on the area of completion.

Graham highways director Dave Brown said: “We are delighted to be working with Highways England on this prestigious contract, it is really encouraging to see that our long-standing and collaborative relationship continues to grow stronger.

“We look forward to working in partnership with the CDF community to ensure the project is completed safely and to the highest possible standards

Highways England is in the process of finalising how it will procure the next stage of improvement works on the UK’s roads following the end of the CDF, expected next year.

New procurement routes will replace the current CDF, which was launched in 2014 to cover enhancement works and is due to be scrapped when it reaches its £5bn OJEU limit.

Earlier this month Highways England announced a series of works packages that will help drive housing developments across the East Midlands and South-east.

The organisation said the schemes, worth £45.5m, will facilitate the development of up to 10,000 new homes.

They include improvements to junction 23 of the M1, junction 9 of the M27 and Anstey Lane on the A46 / A560.

Macquarie-led consortium completes £2.3bn UK Green Investment Bank deal

A Macquarie-led consortium has successfully completed the acquisition of the UK Green Investment Bank Ltd from the UK Government for £2.3 billion.

The consortium is made up of Macquarie Group Ltd, Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund 5 and Universities Superannuation Scheme.

Announcing the completion of the deal,  Macquarie said that under its ownership, the Green Investment Bank will remain one of the leading investors in green infrastructure in the UK and Europe, with added scope to further expand internationally.

Macquarie will adopt the Green Investment Bank as its primary vehicle for principal investment in green projects in the UK and Europe and will consolidate its own existing UK and European principal investment business into that vehicle.

Macquarie Capital, the advisory, capital markets and principal investment arm of Macquarie Group, and the Green Investment Bank have together led over £15 billion of investment in the UK across a broad range of renewables technologies.

These include: energy efficiency, bioenergy, energy from waste, onshore and offshore wind, low carbon transport, solar and tidal energy and energy storage.

As previously announced, Macquarie has committed to the Green Investment Bank’s target of leading £3 billion of investment in green energy projects over the next three years, operating in accordance with its established green purpose.

Macquarie said that in order to pursue the Green Investment Bank’s vision to invest in green infrastructure internationally and positively contribute to the globalisation of the renewables industry, the Green Investment Bank will now operate under the name Green Investment Group.

As part of Macquarie, the Green Investment Group is now one of Europe’s largest teams of green energy investment specialists, with expertise in project finance and development, construction, investment and asset management of green energy infrastructure.

The team will continue to be based in Edinburgh and London.

Daniel Wong, Head of Macquarie Capital Europe, said:

“Combined with Macquarie’s resources as the world’s largest infrastructure investor, the Green Investment Group will be uniquely placed to continue in its pioneering role in the world’s transition to a low-carbon economy. We look forward to growing the Green Investment Group’s capacity and its contribution to the UK and global renewables markets.”

Lord Smith of Kelvin, Chair of the Green Investment Bank up to the completion of the transaction, added:

“I’m confident that with this support the Green Investment Bank, nurtured so well through its early years by the UK Government, will go on to bigger and better things.”

“If the Paris Agreement is to be delivered we need to see mature green infrastructure delivered quickly and at scale, alongside the rapid development of emerging technologies. To achieve this the world needs committed, innovative, specialist, experienced investors with access to deep and flexible pools of capital. The Green Investment Group will now have the platform to meet that market need and fulfil its full potential.”

As previously announced, the Green Investment Bank will continue to collaborate with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in the joint venture UK Climate Investments LLP (UKCI). Macquarie said the Green Investment Group remains committed to UKCI and its vision to invest in green infrastructure in selected developing countries.

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Thousands of jobs and homes could be created in the South West following a £20m investment by Highways England.

The improvements to the M4 and M5/A30 will unlock the development of more than 3,300 homes and create more than 6,000 jobs for people living in Swindon, Exeter, and Weston-super-Mare.

Highways England is investing more than £11m from its Growth and Housing Fund in the South West schemes, together with a project on the A1 in Darlington, with private sector developer contributions making up the rest.

On a visit to Exeter, transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “We’re undertaking the biggest modernisation program for a generation to bring our roads into the 21st century and give people the safe and reliable journeys they expect.

“But these improvements will do even more – allowing the construction of thousands of homes and the creation of thousands of jobs to give a huge boost to the area’s economy.”

On his visit to the region yesterday (20 October 2016), Grayling also attended a round table hosted by Business West Chambers of Commerce and Initiative.

Representatives put forward the views of businesses and employers in the South West ahead of the 2017 autumn statement.