Friday, 16 March 2018

Marlow Bridge night closures to avoid misuse during diversion


To prevent a similar occurrence to 2016 when an HGV damaged Marlow Bridge leading to extensive closure time, Buckinghamshire County Council has decided to take preventative measures and close Marlow Bridge overnight to protect it from unlawful use during the closure of the A404 near Marlow and Bisham by Highways England, which is taking place on alternate nights next week (commencing Monday 19th March).

Highways England will be carrying out night lining works on the A404 and A404 (M) on Monday (19th) Wednesday (21st) and Friday (23rd) next week. The works require a full closure of the north and south bound carriageways from 10pm to 6pm on each night.

While there will be separately signed diversions for cars and HGVs, BCC has decided the risk to abuse of the weight limit of the bridge by HGVs attempting a shortcut is too great. It is not a decision taken lightly, and we regret any inconvenience caused to residents.

Press release from Highways England below:
Please be advised that work to renew the road markings along the A404 and A404(M) north and southbound carriageways was unfortunately uncompleted but has now been rescheduled to take place overnight, between 10pm and 6am, on the following dates:

·       Monday 19 March for 2 nights – A404(M) northbound carriageway from M4 junction 8/9 to junction 9b
·       Wednesday 21 March for 2 nights – A404 southbound carriageway from the M40 (Handy Cross) to Burchetts Green
·       Friday 23 and Monday 26 March – A404(M) southbound from junction 9b to the M4 junction 8/9

During the closures, the following clearly signed diversions will be in place suitable for all types of vehicles:

·       A404 Southbound Closure – traffic will be diverted via Wycombe Road, A4155 to Henley-on-Thames and A4130 Henley Road. A secondary route will be in place from Marlow through Bisham and across the roundabout for those wishing to access the A308
·       A404(M) Northbound and Southbound Closures – traffic will be diverted via the A308 and Bath Road

It is not expected that these works will generate excessive noise, however we would like to apologise in advance for any disturbance caused during the works.  If you have any questions, or if you’d like you know about our work please contact us on 0300 123 5000 or email info@highwaysengland.co.uk

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Snow updates, March 2018

It might be March but spring is definitely not in the air. The snow continues to fall and looks like its set to for the remainder of the week and the weekend too. Updates below.

Update, 4pm March 2nd: Freezing rain threatens further ice
Buckinghamshire is currently being hit by sleety freezing rain which has the potential to turn untreated surfaces icy quite quickly.

Although the majority of main roads remain open, all routes are difficult and with continuing heavy snowfall conditions are only going to get worse through this afternoon and evening.

Gritting crews are remobilising now and will run right through the late afternoon and evening. Second crews are resting in preparation for another tough night, with persistent snowfall expected from around 4pm to midnight. Specific timing for action is being decided at a local level based on forecasts and feedback from the gritter drivers, but all areas will be treated tonight.

Roads being cleared by gritters in Ivinghoe


Weekend forecast:
Conditions on Saturday morning may become slightly drier and warmer, although forecasts could change. Should temperatures rise, flooding of roads through melting snow, especially where drainage is covered by deep drifts, could be an issue. TfB emergency crews are primed.     

Last night and earlier today:
TfB gritter drivers and winter teams had very busy night last night, Thursday 1st March, with several gritting and ploughing runs carried out across the county. During the morning rush hour the majority of main roads were covered with heavy slush, but the main problem was drifting snow in exposed areas with ploughs battling some very heavy and fast forming drifts. 

A rural road in the Wycombe area, early hours of Friday morning (2nd March)


All areas have been busy throughout the morning. Although fresh snowfall has been minimal, the north of the County in particular has been dealing with heavy drifts of blown snow from adjacent land, with the A413 between Whitchurch and Winslow, the A4010 at Risborough, and part of the A418 all closed earlier today.


Snow down, baby!
Transport for Buckinghamshire responded to a call for help this morning from their colleagues at Wycombe District Council housing department. Residents at Saunderton Lodge, WDC’s emergency accommodation on the outskirts of town, were snowed in – and three women at the lodge had gone into early labour.

Snow drifts from the surrounding fields had overwhelmed the 400m+ driveway causing residents vehicles to get stuck, blocking the way. Kind volunteers from the public worked with contractors to try and dig people out, but reinforcements were soon needed.

A call was made to the County Council resilience team asking for help, and a TfB crew was sent out ASAP with a snow plough and gritter to save the day. At the last report they were all still safe and warm at the lodge, but safe in the knowledge that they could get to hospital when the time comes!


Everyone at TfB is delighted they could help out, and wishes the expectant mums all the very best for the safe arrival of their snow babies! 

High Wycombe gritters clear the way at Saunderton Lodge

Thurs 1st March

Today we are doing a gritting run countywide at 2pm and another later on this evening at 7pm. Persistent but largely light snow has been seen this morning, and some drifting in the high winds has seen treated roads remain slushy but with black driving surfaces. Our crews have been active all morning across the County, covering secondary routes and now returning to primary routes. Heavy but less frequent flurries are likely this afternoon.

Our main concern overnight is with the expected very low temperatures. Ice will form on the untreated network and it is even possible that it will form on the treated roads too. With the predicted snowfall tomorrow this does mean that driving conditions could be difficult during the rush hour. 

"The gritters have been through town centre and all clear this morning." Tweet from Cllr Warren Whyte, Member for Buckingham East, this morning - 1st March '18


How do we know when to grit?

Over the last few days we have been busy salting the county’s roads, covering both our primary and secondary routes. Every day the temperature of the road surface and residual salt is monitored, and our dedicated winter team receive updates regarding air temperature, likelihood of snow and ice, wind speed and so on. This information is used to decide whether gritting is necessary or not. Over a typical winter period, we can expect to complete about 50 -55 runs but so far we have already completed 72 runs – and the season isn’t over yet!

Transport for Bucks has 25 individual primary salting routes covered by a dedicated gritter (all with their own names!). Each of our gritting runs uses between 55-85 tonnes of salt over the 25 routes, depending on the spread rate decided and also whether the salt is a pre-wet mix or whether it is used dry.

County Councillor Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Transportation has praised the winter maintenance and gritting crews:

“I’d like to thank the crews for all they have done over the last couple of days and all that they will continue to do over the coming days. Over the winter period, we have 50 gritter drivers who are on call every day for six months – including the entire Christmas period and New Year’s too! It’s a hard job but our crew do it well and without complaint. I know I speak on behalf of the entire county when I say how grateful we are.” 


Gritting runs are made up primary, secondary and snow routes:

Primary – or precautionary – routes are the most important routes that keep everyone moving. The precautionary routes make up 44% of the total network of the county’s A and B road network. These runs cover 1405km of road! In an ideal scenario it is these roads that are treated prior to the formation of ice.

Secondary routes are treated in the event of prolonged severe weather once primary routes are treated and are running well. The secondary routes cover classified roads that aren’t included in the primary routes and unclassified roads that serve communities of 200+. Sometimes, cycle ways and footways in key pedestrian areas might also be gritted as part of the secondary routes.

Snow routes, as you might expect, are used when there is particularly heavy snow. When this occurs, the winter service begins working as a 24 hour operation and we focus on the County’s most strategic routes – around 22% of the overall network. Once the snow has cleared sufficiently, we go back to using our primary routes as soon as possible. 


Mutual aid

Although our focus must rightly be the main roads of Buckinghamshire we are delighted to assist our colleagues across Buckinghamshire wherever possible. As an example, this week we have added to our salting route around Stoke Mandeville to assist with preparations for the Winter Paralympic Heritage Flame Lighting Ceremony, and have provided salt to assist organisers in ensuring pedestrian routes are safe to access.

For more information on our winter service, check out our '5 things you need to know...' blog from last December.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Wintery weather to return

It’s looking like a cold weekend ahead, with the chance of snow early next week.  Our fleet of gritters will be out and about helping keep the roads free of ice (and snow). 
You can see the daily gritting decision by following us on Twitter (@TfBAlerts) or by checking our winter page, where you can also track the gritters on an interactive map.

Here is a quick update from the Met Office ahead of the very cold weather and snow potential for the coming week. 
Headline:
Increasingly cold conditions will develop over the weekend with an increased potential to see snow showers which could lead to disruption to transport, icy conditions and the potential for power outages.
Warnings Issued:
No warnings have been issued for the Thames Valley, but this will be kept under review.
Next 48-72 hours:
The high pressure that was forecast to develop across northern parts of Europe has now become established and the easterly wind has developed bringing cold air off the continent.  There will be a good deal of fine, dry weather today (Friday) and over the weekend with good sunny spells at times.  By Sunday daytime temperatures will rise to only just above freezing and overnight temperatures will be well below leading to severe frosts.  The low temperatures and fairly brisk easterly wind will lead to a significant wind chill, making it feel well below freezing. 
Monday / Tuesday:
Bitterly cold air will have arrived across Southeast England by Monday and, along with this, an increasing risk of seeing snow showers. Daytime temperatures will struggle to rise above freezing with severe frosts continuing overnight. 
In this weather set up it tends to be the eastern coastal counties that see the brunt of the frequent heavy snow showers and warnings have been issued for these areas.  However, the latest forecast suggests that the Thames Valley area, could see snow showers from the second half of Monday and through Tuesday although they will be less frequent and organised than locations further east.  Some places could see accumulations of 1-2 cm but no warning has currently been issued but this will be kept under review over the weekend.
If warnings are required over the weekend they can be found on the Met Office App or the Met Office website at http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/public/weather/warnings.
Further Ahead:
The very cold conditions and risk of heavy snow showers continues through the rest of next week. Temperatures will remain below freezing on some days with severe frosts overnight.

Monday, 5 February 2018

TfB preparing for disruption of Handy Cross M40 junction weekend closures



UPDATE: 27/02/18 Weekend works for Fri 2nd - 5th March POSTPONED
Due to the poor weather forecast, the resurfacing works at the Handy Cross A404/M40 junction 4 roundabout for this weekend have been postponed (Friday 2nd to Monday 5th March). The roundabout and approach roads were due to be closed for a third weekend running for continuing resurfacing works.

Highways England have liaised with Buckinghamshire County Council, Wycombe District Council and Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead to re-programme the works for the weekend of Friday 16th March (9pm Friday to 5am Monday 19th), and apologise for any inconvenience caused. Highways England will provide advanced warning signage on site to inform motorists before the rescheduled works start.

Original post:
Transport for Buckinghamshire is preparing for the disruption to traffic from the weekend closures of the A404/M40 Handy Cross roundabout from mid-February. Highways England will be carrying out resurfacing on the roundabout over three consecutive weekends, from 9pm Friday night to 5am Monday morning on the weekends of Friday 16th February, 23rd February, and 2nd March. The resurfacing works require a full closure of the roundabout, as well as the approach roads leading to the junction.


While these are not TfB works, they are preparing for the disruption to traffic that the closure is likely to cause in surrounding areas and have placed an embargo on any other non-essential road works in a 10 mile radius of the M40 works. Additional traffic management will also be used on diversion routes, particularly the smaller roads less well equipped to deal with heavy traffic.



About the works:

Highways England is carrying out the resurfacing to ensure this essential junction remains in a safe condition. The existing road surface will be dug out and fully resurfaced, the traffic signals and detection loops will be replaced, and anti-skid material will be laid at selected areas of the roundabout. During the closures various clearly signed diversions will be in place, primarily using the M40 junctions 3 and 5, the A40, Wooburn Green and Little Marlow.

Emergency services will have access through the closure, as will TfB gritters should they need to get through to salt the roads, although gritting routes have been adjusted to minimise disruption.

The X80 and 800/850 bus routes – which serve High Wycombe, Marlow and Reading – will be diverted during the weekend closures, and National Express will not be serving the Handy Cross Coachway during the closure. Details can be found on the bus service disruption page on the county council website.

TfB will be collaborating with Highways England to make use of the road closures on the approach roads, and carry out maintenance works such as small scale resurfacing, gully clearing, sign cleaning, and street lighting repairs.

If you have any questions or would like to know about the works, you can contact Highways England on 0300 123 5000 or email them at info@highwaysengland.co.uk. TfB have set up a webpage with FAQs about the closure, bus information, and diversion information and maps. Visit buckscc.gov.uk/handycrossclosure

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

It’s pot hole season

This winter’s weather has been tough on Buckinghamshire’s roads – while the heavy snowfall in December was the most remarkable weather event, the worst conditions for roads are actually when the ground temperature fluctuates constantly between just above and just below zero.


TfB pot hole gang make a permanent repair on a Buckinghamshire road

Pot hole formation is accelerated by this ‘freeze thaw’ effect, whereby moisture gets into small cracks in the the road surface and expands when it freezes, then thaws out when the temperature rises. This process repeats until the road surface begins to break up and pot holes are formed.

County Councillor Mark Shaw, Cabinet Member for Transportation, urges road users in Buckinghamshire to report pot holes when they see them:

“Transport for Buckinghamshire will investigate every pot hole reported to them, and react on a risk based prioritisation process – put simply, that means the worst ones will be attended to first, as a matter of urgency. But we’re not mind readers, and the road network is far too vast for us to possibly know where all the potholes are, so we need members of the public to report them to us either using the online form, which only takes a few minutes, or by calling if it’s dangerous or an emergency. I would ask that everyone be patient while we deal with the fallout of a bad winter – pot holes are as inevitable as weather, roads are made of a porous material so that they don’t flood constantly in rain and so when water within the structure freezes, defects will form.”

On average, when there are no severe weather issues, TfB repairs over 4,000 pot holes every month.

Pot hole FAQ:

·        You fixed one pot hole, why didn’t you fix the one next to it while you were here?
Pot holes are prioritised according to risk – if they are on very well used roads, they are more of a priority. Size and depth are also factors. Resources have to be used responsibly, and cannot be used up fixing a more minor road surface defect when there are more urgent defects needing attention just up the road.

·        Why can I only report one pot hole online at a time?
Our online reporting system works on an interactive map, so that each individual defect can be risk assessed and dealt with on a case by case basis. The map allows for accurate pinpointing, which saves time when it comes to inspections. There are drop-down menus to allow you to input as much detail, such as size and position, as possible.

·        Why do you make temporary repairs that don’t last?
Temporary repairs, where the pot hole is filled in with hot material and made smooth, are often carried out as a safety measure when a permanent repair cannot be carried out at that moment, likely due to the location of the defect. That is to say, where a larger area of road needs to be cut away to make a full repair, likely requiring a road or lane closure, a temporary or ‘make safe’ repair is an effective way of keeping the road safe in the meantime.

How do I report a pot hole?You can report pot holes, as well as any other road issue, using the Report It forms on the county council website. In an emergency, for instance a severe road defect, a flooded road, or a tree in the road, you can always call Transport for Buckinghamshire on 01296 382416 (9am-5.30pm Mon-Thurs 9am-5pm Friday) or 01296 486630 (out of hours and weekends)

Friday, 22 December 2017

Respect for gritter drivers is for life, not just for Christmas!

Buckinghamshire's Transportation Cabinet Member, Mark Shaw, had a fitting seasonal message about extending the festive goodwill to all gritter drivers into the new year, and beyond. Published on Facebook, Friday 22nd December 2017. 


"Well, what a winter we’ve had so far! The first time gritters went out this year was back on Guy Fawke’s Night and since then the big yellow machines have been out on the roads over 30 times already. The biggest challenge was, most definitely, the snow weekend of the 9th and 10th of December, where our amazing workforce were out and about on the roads five times in 24 hours. More than 60 staff members, operatives and office based alike, were on duty on Sunday 10th and I’m so grateful to every one of them for working tirelessly to keep the roads safe.

One of our new gritters for 2017, Salt Disney!

We were also ‘snowed under’ (it wouldn’t be Christmas without a rubbish joke, would it?) with some really lovely messages of praise and thanks from members of the public via email and social media. We made sure those messages made it to the people on the front line, and even turned them into a Christmas card for over 100 staff across three depots! It’s nice to reflect at this time of year, when their work is so high profile, what these front line team members really do for all of us in Buckinghamshire.


When their work is so high profile, like when it snows, it is so lovely to hear the positive feedback for TfB’s operatives. However, sadly, this is not the case all year round. Incidents of abuse to road workers are a big industry problem, not just in Buckinghamshire, but on roads all over the country. Tensions can run high when works are causing congestion or road blocks, but some of the abuse directed at the people who are just out there doing their jobs has been really nasty this year. We actually saw one conviction against an offender earlier this year, whose abuse of one of the guys working on the roads earned him a hefty fine and community service. And so, as we all head into the new year, probably a little worse for wear after a great Christmas, I hope that the goodwill that has been flooding in for the brilliant gritter drivers, winter operatives, and all other staff who go the extra mile in adverse conditions, can continue into the next year and beyond. Remember, the same people you might see filling pot holes, holding you up on the roads in the summer, are the same people working so hard to keep you moving in winter."


Mark  

Friday, 8 December 2017

We’re ready! | Five things you need to know about our winter service

Transport for Buckinghamshire is ready for the cold weather and prepared to help keep the roads safe. Here’s five things you need to know about our winter service:


1. Winter service lasts from October to March every year. 

By mid-October every year TfB is ready for winter, and the daily monitoring of road surface temperatures begins. A dedicated winter team receives detailed weather forecast analysis every day, which contains information on air temperature, road surface temperature (which can often be a few degrees lower than air temperature) likelihood of snow and ice, humidity and wind speed. Using the data they are given, the team decides whether or not to salt the roads, and at what time. Winter service generally winds up around late March when spring arrives and temperatures get milder.

2. We name our gritters! 

TfB has a fleet of 25 gritters, based at four depots countywide, and each of the big yellow machines has a name on their front bonnet. This year we replaced 12 of the fleet, which meant new names needed to be chosen for them. We opened up the decision making process to the public and a judging panel chose the best ones:

Usain Salt and Snow Farah (both based in High Wycombe), Grit ‘n’ Bear It, Walter the Salter, and Grit Expectations (based at Amersham) Gritty Bang Bang (based in Gawcott) and Ice Ice Baby, Salt Disney, Rocky Horror, Snowbot, The Gritter Good, and True Grit (all based in Aylesbury). Thanks to all the members of the public who helped us pick these brilliant names!

New gritters, Usain Salt and Snow Farah at the High Wycombe TfB Depot






You can see the daily gritting decision by following us on Twitter (@TfBAlerts) or by checking our winter page, where you can also track the gritters on an interactive map. 


3. We salt 44% of Buckinghamshire roads

Our primary salting routes cover the most important roads to keep everyone moving, covering 1405km of the county's A and B road network – that’s about 44% of the total network, and is more than many local authorities grit. In times of very severe weather salting will be carried out on secondary routes as well. These include classified roads which are not included in the primary routes, unclassified roads serving communities of 200 dwellings or more and unclassified roads with a gradient of 10% or less. We may also salt cycle ways and footways in main shopping areas and other key pedestrian and cycle facilities. In general, the secondary salting network will be treated after the formation of ice or fall of snow – fortunately we have not had a severe winter in Buckinghamshire in several years. You can view the gritting route map on our winter page. 

An overview of the Buckinghamshire precautionary gritting routes


4. We have 50 gritter drivers on call every day for six months

 From October to March TfB has 50 specially trained gritter drivers on call 24/7 – that includes Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. That’s a Christmas of staying off the booze and potentially abandoning carving the turkey to get out on the roads!
There are roughly two drivers per gritter who rotate gritting duties on an A-B basis; this ensures no driver does two runs in one night, should we need to salt twice in 24 hours. Generally the drivers get given between 4 – 6 hours’ notice if they will need to go out, but they need to be available at 2 hours’ notice should the forecast change suddenly, or another driver become unwell. What’s more, gritting generally takes place in the evening and throughout the night, so the drivers are still carrying out their day jobs in highway maintenance. 


5. We store thousands of tonnes of salt across the county 

Rock salt is used to grit roads - it prevents frost and ice forming and helps to melt ice. TfB has four rock salt barns based across Buckinghamshire in High Wycombe, Amersham, Aylesbury and Buckingham, as well as an emergency reserve of 3000 tonnes of salt near south Bucks, just in case. Each barn holds around 1000 tonnes of salt at a time and is topped up throughout the winter - each full salt run of the county uses up approximately 85 tonnes! Salt requires traffic movement and moisture in the atmosphere to turn it into a de-icing solution. In order for it to work effectively, vehicles need to drive over the salt to grind it into smaller particles and spread it across the road. 


A gritter offloading its leftover salt at the end of a gritting run 


The County Council has a one-stop-shop for everything you need to know this winter - visit www.buckscc.gov.uk/readyforwinter.