Missing Link work won’t start before 2021

Construction of the notorious ‘Missing Link’ at the Air Balloon roundabout is unlikely to start for another 5 years.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson called for urgent action over the Air Balloon rounadabout

That’s the latest word from roads bosses who are managing the project.

In a letter to the Leader of Gloucestershire Liberal Democrats, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson, Highways England have confirmed that the project is still ongoing despite changes in Government but that any hope of construction work starting soon has gone.

Cllr Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) wrote to the new Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in July asking him to re-commit to the project following the Brexit vote. Mr Grayling didn’t answer himself but passed the letter to Highways England to respond.

Now, Cllr Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach), who represents the area around the Air Balloon roundabout on the A417, says he’s happy that the work is still planned but disappointed it is taking so long to happen:

“The ‘Missing Link’ has been a problem for our county for more than 20 years. It’s now heavily congested at all times of day. Recently we have seen weekly incidents including broken down lorries and yet more accidents.

“Whilst I’m glad that fixing this urgent problem is still on the agenda, the news that work won’t even start for another 5 years is frustrating. This road is a real drag on Gloucestershire’s economy.

“My other concern is that Highways England say in their letter that funding for all schemes is reviewed regularly. Does that mean the Government could pull the plug if it wanted to?

“I will keep the pressure up on the new Transport Minister. It’s a shame he hasn’t given his personal commitment to the scheme and has not responded to my request for him to visit and see the issues for himself.”

Highways England are currently working to identify a number of different options to solve the issues on the A417. They say that they will be engaging with local people later this year.

Call for new Transport Secretary to confirm commitment to ‘Missing link’

Leader of the Liberal Democrat County Council Group, Paul Hodgkinson, has today sent an open letter to the newly appointed Secretary of State for Transport, Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP.

Cllrs Nigel Robbins and Paul Hodgkinson (right) are backing urgent action at the Air Balloon.

Cllrs Nigel Robbins and Paul Hodgkinson (right) are backing urgent action at the Air Balloon.

The letter requests the new Transport Secretary and the newly formed post-Referendum Government continue with the commitment shown by the previous Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin MP to fix the ‘Missing Link’ on the A417.

Cllr. Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach), who represents the area around the Air Balloon roundabout, said that:

“The ‘Missing Link’ has been a problem for Gloucestershire for more than 20 years. It is often very heavily congested seeing more than 34,000 vehicles a day and there are frequent tragic accidents with more than 340 casualties in the past 15 years.

“Local residents, campaigners and elected representatives have for decades been lobbying both local and national government to find a solution. It is well known for it being a significant bottleneck and has been found to have the worst average vehicle delay of all strategic routes in the South West.

The letter continued by saying that:

“Since the start of January 2014, I’ve been delighted to see support gathering pace for government to fund the £255 million A417 loop, which is undoubtedly the only viable option to fix the ‘Missing Link’.

“In April 2014, I was particularly pleased that support was given by the Highways Agency in recognising local concerns about the route following stakeholder events in the region and highlighting the issue in its route strategy.

In making reference to the support of the former Transport Secretary, Cllr. Hodgkinson also said:

“The former Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin MP visited the A417 ‘Missing Link’ two years ago on Wednesday 16th July 2014 and was extremely supportive of the scheme.

“Funding has been secured by Highways England (HE) for the next stage of the A417 ‘Missing Link’ scheme development, but there’s still along way to go. We would like you to be equally committed as your predecessor, if not more supportive and would very much like to see construction starting before Highways England’s issued timeline for the scheme development, which identifies that construction will not start until summer 2021.

“The Air Balloon roundabout, which is a key part of the missing link section, is forecasted to be running 30 per cent over capacity by 2026. Already the road is congested and dangerous and needless to say will be worse before the anticipated summer 2021 construction date.

Cllr. Hodgkinson in asking to reaffirm the new Transport Secretary’s funding commitment to the ‘Missing Link’ also offered an invitation to the Rt Hon Chris Grayling saying:

“I believe Highways England (HE) will be undertaking an engagement event in Autumn 2016 to explain what will happen next and we would be delighted if you could perhaps join us to show your support?

Traffic warden contract should be parked!

 

Liberal Democrats have criticised the decision to extend Gloucestershire County Council’s parking enforcement contract with APCOA.

Traffic wardens

The decision was taken last week by the County Council’s Conservative Cabinet. The contract to enforce on-street parking was due to end in 2018. Today’s decision means that APCOA will now be policing Gloucestershire’s streets for an extra two years until 2020.

Concerns have been raised about the lack of proper consultation undertaken prior to making the decision and the poor performance of APCOA in enforcing residents parking zones in many areas.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) commented: “It concerns me that the Conservative administration has not allowed the time to consult people properly about this. On an issue as important as parking extensive work needs to be undertaken to get the best deal for taxpayers.

“That is why we don’t want the current contract extended at this stage. It feels like this decision has been slipped in through the back door without effective scrutiny.

“If the administration had taken the time to speak to local residents and councillors they would know for themselves that the contract should not be extended at this point.

“Residents’ concerns about parking are not being heard. Many people pay lots of money for permits every year, yet they hardly ever see traffic wardens in their street. I know of more than one example where cars have been parked for long periods without any permit.

“There needs to be a level playing field. In some streets there are high levels of activity from APCOA but in others they are rarely seen. Many residents play by the rules in purchasing a permit, they should expect to be able to park near their homes. They should also expect that others who don’t have permits are properly dealt with. “

Timetable bid for Air Balloon solution

We’re all painfully aware of the still-present gridlock and accidents at the Air Balloon A417 and many people were pleased when the last Government announced money for a solution at last.

wgrp1530h13 air balloon[2]

Now, 19 months after that announcement and nothing further has happened. So, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has been pressing for a definitive timetable for work to begin on the so called “Missing Link” project.

As a result of his questions, the Government and Highways England have said that construction work will begin at some point in the next roads funding period – that’s 2020-2026.

Cllr Hodgkinson believes the work should start sooner:

“This is all too far in the future but at least it appears to be in the schedule.

“However, we all need to have much more information on each stage of the project and how we will all be involved in it. I’ve asked for plans to be laid out so that frustrated commuters and residents have a timetable for when each stage will happen – consultations with us all, the announcement of the specific route to be followed, a construction start date and a final finish date.

“I’ve been promised this timetable soon and will of course share it as soon as I get it!”

 

 

Massive black hole in Tory pothole funding for Gloucestershire

The county’s Liberal Democrats have blasted local Conservatives for letting down Gloucestershire as figures unveiled in Parliament now show that cash to fix our roads has been slashed.

PaulPothole2016

Parliamentary analysis shows that in Gloucestershire pothole maintenance funding has been cut by £478,000.

This cut comes after the Chancellor promised an extra ‘Pothole Fund’ recently. Even with this cash, it doesn’t plug the gap and the county will lose out.

Nationally, the shortfall in cash is £25 million.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton and Northleach) said: “In our area local people tell me day after day that we need to fix our roads. If the Conservatives won’t deliver it, we will.

“Fixing our roads and delivering for Gloucestershire is a key priority. But here we see that this money for fixing our highways has actually been cut by half a million pounds.

He added: “The Government have trumpeted the pothole funding but now our analysis shows a massive black hole.

“There were a lot of press releases on how wonderful this pothole fund was but in reality we now see that it delivers much, much less.

“We are facing ‘Pot Hole Gloucestershire’. Our drivers and cyclists deserve so much better.

“Millions of drivers pay tax through the nose for awful roads that are a danger to drivers and to those riding bikes.

“It is, frankly, a national and local embarrassment.”

Call for action over road casualties

 

The Liberal Democrats on Gloucestershire County Council have called for urgent action over the increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured on Gloucestershire’s roads.

NoCrashA436FrontOn

A report providing a strategic overview of the Council’s performance for Quarter 3 2015/16 submitted to the recent Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee revealed ‘Road Safety’ figures to be ‘performance worse than tolerance’.

Measured against a target level of 147 people, the actual number of killed and seriously injured people in Quarter 3 reached 192. This last quarter to the end of September saw the highest three month total since 2003. It was noted that car driver numbers were particularly high and investigations are currently taking place to see if there were specific reasons for this sudden increase.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton-on-the-Water & Northleach), who recently called for safety and congestion issues on the A429 to be looked at by a special task group, said:

“Across Gloucestershire we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of killed and seriously injured people including children and older people on our roads. The figures indicate that 15 children were injured in quarter 3 2015 compared to 9 children in the same quarter period back in 2012. Just one injured child is one too many, but 15 in one quarter is concerning.

“The most recent quarter shows an increase in those over 70 years old who have been killed or seriously injured. I am keen for the study that is currently being undertaken looking at older road user casualties to be completed sooner in order to stop the number of those killed and seriously injured from escalating.

“It is particularly concerning that the road safety budget for 2016/17 has reduced by nearly £300K compared to 2015/16 at a time when the number of killed and seriously injured has increased.

“Behind every one statistic there is an individual who has been injured or worse killed and we must as a council do everything we can to prevent such road incidents from happening.”

“We all have a part to play in reducing the number of those killed or seriously injured on our county roads. I’d like the Cabinet Member for Fire, Planning and Infrastructure to push this further up the council agenda in order to see a decrease in the number of people who are injured on our roads every year.

“For three years running the Liberal Democrats have successfully secured Year 5 visits to SkillZone, which is a fantastic and fun way of getting important safety messages across to our children.

“I’d encourage all schools to take up the opportunity of bringing their Year 5 groups to such a place and thus helping to prevent the concerning casualty figures that we are currently seeing.”

New figures show pothole failure

A new set of figures released by Gloucestershire County Council shows targets for pothole repairs being missed again. PaulPothole

In spite of a recent report highlighting successes that include the repair of 49,195 potholes, the Liberal Democrats have said the latest public figures show “something very different” in that still there is failure to achieve set performance targets.

Cllr. Paul Hodgkinson (LD: Bourton-on-the-Water and Northleach), last year called for the county’s highways contract with Amey to be closely monitored and for financial penalties to be imposed if performance targets were not consistently achieved in 2015/2016.

Speaking about the latest key performance indicators for roads at a recent full council meeting, Cllr. Hodgkinson said:

“The indicators publicly reveal that there are areas within highways where targets have simply not been met, and in other areas they have fallen alarmingly short. For example, the target to repair road defects within 3 months is 95%, yet the performance is just 68%. It seems that due to resources being put to repair the biggest potholes, this actual outcome is woefully poor. You only have to look at the smaller roads in particular to see that there is a failure to get this right.

“We’re told that additional resources have been secured to resolve this backlog, and we hope to see it reduce over the coming months, but we’ll be watching closely. Residents want roads they can drive on without having to avoid dangerous potholes.

“The indicators also reveal that repairs to roads required within 28 days are below target. This really has to get better.

“It’s about time that the Cabinet Member for Highways and Flood stopped pretending that everything in the garden is rosy with the roads contractor Amey when clearly these indicators show it’s not.

“The highways performance indicators also show that in terms of county councillor and parish council satisfaction, this is also slipping.

“With the review of the highway contract fast approaching Amey need to step up to the mark and really show improvements in their performance.”

Broken Promise, Broken Roads

Today, Gloucestershire County Council’s Conservative bosses voted to slash money for road repairs.

PaulPothole2016

The Council’s Cabinet has put forward a budget which cuts money going to highways by over £2 million in the coming year.

Challenging the decision, Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Bourton & Northleach) said:

“In the last County Council elections in 2013 the Tories pledged to ‘invest more in our roads’. Sadly today they have broken that promise.

“We’re all painfully aware of how our roads are deteriorating at the end of a long, wet winter. Potholes are popping up all over the place.

“This is always the thing residents raise with me most. In fact, the Council’s own budget consultation shows that it’s one of the Top 5 things people want money spent on.

“Yet now we see a huge cut in the money going to fix our pavements and streets. It’s not rocket science to see that money could be found from other budgets to fix the potholes properly.

“I call now for an immediate U turn on this cut. Otherwise it is a case of ‘Broken promise, broken roads.’

 

Campaign makes some noise with MPs

The campaign to cut noise from the A419/A417 has got new backing from the area’s two MPs.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (left) with members of A419NAG

An action group, calling themselves A419NAG (Noise Action Group), has been lobbying on behalf of residents all along the infamous road for the last 3 years.

Last Friday, the group met with parish and town council chairs from up and down the A419, representatives from Highways England and the two MPs for the Cotswolds and North Wiltshire.

The meeting, held at Down Ampney Village Hall, heard about the campaign group’s ongoing battle to address the noise issue for thousands of residents in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (GCC, Bourton and Northleach) chairs the group and said that the aim of the meeting was to get a commitment from the MPs to help cut the excessive noise:

“Our own scientific readings show that noise levels have doubled since the road was built in 1997. Residents were promised a tarmac surface but long stretches were built in concrete. The traffic has steadily increased along with many more lorries. This pollution is more than an irritant – our own survey has proved that this excess noise is impacting on the health and well-being of communities next to the highway.”

At the meeting, attended by 30 people, the two MPs promised to raise the issue with the Environment Minister. Highways England confirmed that only one stretch of the road – next to Latton – has been earmarked for noise reduction measures.

The MPs will also ask the Government to speak direct to local residents when it carries out its next ‘noise mapping’ exercise in 2017. This exercise, to be carried out by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), will earmark roads across the country which have noise pollution issues.

Cllr Hodgkinson stated that the group’s message must lead to the concerns of people in the Cotswolds and Wiltshire being taken seriously at last:

“There’s a compelling message to tell – this road noise has increased so much that residents now want urgent action. We are looking to our representatives to press hard for our area and help us right this wrong.”

Call for Air Balloon solution to get some speed up

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has been pressing for a solution to the notorious A417 Air Balloon for the last few years. The traffic blackspot sits within his county council division.

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson called for urgent action over the Air Balloon rounadabout

Cllr Paul Hodgkinson has called for urgent action over the Air Balloon roundabout

Prior to the General Election, the outgoing Government confirmed that £250 million would be made available for a solution to the triple issues at the location – accidents, gridlock and pollution. At the time, there were suggestions that spades could even be in the ground by next year.

Recently, the mood music from the Government has changed and the local MP acknowledged in the press that the timings had slipped.

Highways England are managing the project. Now, Paul has spoken to their project manager about this to get a real timescale for the project:

“Residents regularly ask me what is happening and it has been very difficult to get decent information.

“Now, the Highways England project manager has told me:

‘In terms of the Major Project at this location, we are currently at the very early stages of this scheme and still identifying and defining options. It was announced in the Roads Investment Strategy as a scheme for delivery in the Roads Period 2 which runs from April 2020 to March 2025. As you likely know, there is a long options and development process to deliver schemes of this nature which will also require a Development Consent Order. As yet, we are still considering the options and timescales for this scheme but our application for DCO is unlikely to be any earlier than Spring 2019 and may not be until 2020.’

What this means is that Highways England will look at all the options for the solution at the Air Balloon, will consult with the public and councils and only after that will present their findings to the Transport Minister to seek approval for work to actually happen.

Paul says he finds this very worrying:

“This work to fix the problems won’t start until 2020 earliest and could be anytime up to 2025. I’m sure Cotswolds residents don’t want to sit in traffic for another 9 years, nor do residents there want to put up with the high levels of air pollution. The impact on the local and regional economy is big – so my message is let’s get on with this as quickly as possible and let’s get a firm commitment from the Government that they will push this up the agenda.”