Highways boss apologises following roadwork scheme complaints

COLCHESTER: A £multi-million road improvement scheme in the town has been criticised by road users, after ‘slow moving’ progress to complete the upgrade attracts thousands of signatures to ‘speed up’ the project.

Councillors from Colchester Council are set to meet with Highways chiefs following complaints from angry road users and local residents.

Many have taken to social media to complain of delays around the upgrade works on the A133 in Colchester. One poster, Tara from St. Johns said: “My normally quiet road feels like the A12 at certain times of the day now.”

The scheme to replace double roundabouts located at Ipswich Road and Harwich Road with a single roundabout at each location, is set to be completed by winter 2019.

Additional carriageway works between the Ipswich Road and Harwich Road on St Andrews Avenue junctions are also taking place to widen the road to accommodate two lanes of traffic in each direction.

Cllr. Darius Laws (Con), Ward Councillor for Castle and Leader of the Colchester Conservatives, said: “I am seriously concerned that the roundabout upgrade works appear to be slow moving and I am arranging an urgent meeting with Highways Boss Kevin Bentley to understand the situation, and see if we can have more boots on the ground working longer hours to get these upgrades delivered quicker.”

‘Vital Improvements’

Cllr. Kevin Bentley, Deputy Leader for Essex County Council (ECC) and Cabinet Member for Infrastructure has responded to complaints. In a statement he said: “I sympathise greatly with everyone affected by the delays in this area of Colchester, particularly at peak times.

“I am very sorry this work is causing people difficulties. We know many people have found alternative routes and some have taken to buses, bikes and walking for short journeys at those times.

“Queues are very unfortunate, but are an unavoidable consequence of needing to make these vital improvements to traffic capacity and safety along these key routes through and around Colchester for years to come.”

The £multi-million scheme includes plans to upgrade pedestrian crossings, converting them to signal controlled crossings and improvements to the cycle and footway provisions.

Work to complete the widening of Colne Bank Avenue in Colchester, from three to four lanes, attracted similar criticism, until it’s completion in June 2017.

Work to replace two roundabouts with one at Ipswich Road junction

Cllr. Bentley added: “We have to keep the A133 and the vital junctions at Ipswich Road and Harwich Road open to avoid bringing the town to a halt.

“We can only close one lane at a time on St Andrews Avenue which makes the work take longer. This is a multi-million pound project and we have a responsibility to deliver this work within budget.”

‘Christmas chaos’

An online petition to ‘speed up’ the roadworks on the A133, started by anonymous Twitter user ‘ColchesterViews’, has attracted more then 3000 signatures since being launched less than one week ago. “No longer can we tolerate 4 men working there and the site empty at weekends and after 3pm. Imagine the chaos at Christmas,” said the petition.

Owners of the ColchesterViews account have yet to respond for comment. We will update our article if this changes.

Essex County Council go on to say the improvement scheme is “complicated” with the need to move utility pipes and cables, strengthen walls and work only on part of the road to keep one lane open throughout the project, with some work to widen lanes only able to take place after utility services have been moved.

Cllr. Bentley continued: “We are constantly talking with the main contractor, Eurovia, to see where any traffic management can be improved or where there are opportunities to manage the programme of works to finish in as short a time as possible.

“Please do bear with us, we greatly appreciate the patience shown by road users who understand that for safe working and safe driving we must have the barriers in place in a planned, coordinated way.”

Updates to the A133 roadworks are being posted online by ECC and via their twitter feed @essexhighways