We are facing up to the difficult decisions on Bristol physical infrastructure which have been overlooked and ignored for too long. So much of our infrastructure is coming to the end of its lifecycle. Our roads, harbour walls, overpasses, heritage assets and utilities are being used more than ever, and that wear and tear adds up. It slows our transport network; it risks flooding of homes and businesses and can give people a feeling that the place around them doesn’t matter.
We have set out to fund and arrest these large scale challenges, such as the expansion of Temple Meads, work on the New Cut, plans for the reinstatement of Kingsweston Iron Bridge to be submitted to planning and repairing Redcliffe Bascule Bridge. The recent £2.6 million from the government’s Pothole Action Fund will further boost our ability to develop the transport network, and carry out preventative work and repairs across our 1,000km of carriageway and nearly 2,000km of footways.
But we should remember that every day we have a committed team working in all weather, across the city, to keep Bristol functioning. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, our Highways team have continued to work to ease congestion to make our highways safe for all road users, while ensuring public safety. Many other companies and agencies also work to keep transport, utilities and services operating.
Last year 2,746 pothole repairs were completed in Bristol. A quarter were completed in 10 days or under. The vast majority being concluded within the government’s target 28-day period.
These figures represent defects that do not present and immediate danger with the higher category potholes being repaired on the same day as they are identified. An example would be how today we’ve had to move quick and shut St Philips Causeway (southbound carriageway only) to repair a dangerous pothole.
We are determined to minimise the impact that works have on our transport network. At 10 days, Bristol’s turnaround on repairs is much shorter than the government’s 28 day deadline that is followed in other areas of the country and we are leading the way in the region, with our Highway Maintenance team achieving above national average across several areas including speed, performance and quality of maintenance, as we continue our work to address the failures caused by historic lack of investment in the city’s infrastructure.
Our Active Roadworks policy and zero tolerance approach can be shown in how we enforce on overrunning works undertaken by utilities companies. Overrunning Utility works fees are applied for works that overrun without authorisation. Of course, some works will overrun for legitimate reasons such as engineering difficulties which are then authorised. But if there is no viable reason, charges are applied, and because we want to make sure that companies understand our determination to keep Bristol moving we always apply the maximum charge possible for overruns.
While other authorities negotiate on charges we have a robust, structured format and we apply strict deadlines. The fees vary in value depending on the road category and range from £250 up to £10,000 per day, and between April 2019 and January 2021, we issued 486 overrun charges totalling £1.4m. In the same period, we issued 3,100 defect notices, where poor reinstatement of the highway has to be rectified at their expense after we’ve inspected roadworks.
Of course, prevention is better than cure and we’ve worked with utilities companies and their contractors to set out expectations so that Bristol can keep moving. We have quarterly performance meetings with all main Utilities and their contractors. Performance is addressed as part of these meetings and sanctions placed if required.
The same can be said for our infrastructure challenges, and while we wish decisions have been taken years ago on harbour infrastructure, cultural spaces and road and cycle network, we’re getting on top of the decades of underinvestment in the fabric of our city. We’ve committed to the restoration of the iconic Bristol Beacon, and have announced plans to work with the Prince’s Foundation to repair the Ashton Court estate. At Cabinet we approved additional funding towards the completion of works to repair, restore, and assess structures and other assets around the River Avon and Floating Harbour Future-proofing Bristol’s watersides.
anyone who spots a pothole to report it online at https://www.bristol.gov.uk/streets-travel/damaged-road-footpath or by calling 0117 922 2100