30th March 2020

COVID-19 Highways Sector Response

Baroness Vere of Norbiton
House of Lords

By email only

Dear Minister,

COVID-19 Highways Sector Response

During the unprecedented challenges of the corona virus the Highways sector continues to support the herculean effort to keep our networks open for essential travel.

Tackling defects to bridges, repairing our drainage systems impacted by recent floods, and of course undertaking time sensitive and critical reactive and major maintenance are vital for safe travel of blue light services, logistics and essential workers. Health and Safety of Highways teams already includes full PPE in dusty and dirty environments that can dictate use of face masks and glasses. The image below shows works vital surveying work to collapsed drains in Essex.

Our Highways workers however rely on an advanced and highly successful interconnected supply chain. Such workers are essential to the upkeep of our highways and include:-

  • Road surveyors
  • Local asphalt batching plants as well bituminous and mineral products
  • Material suppliers including builders merchants

This is far wider than just our front line highway staff but includes our contractors and those who work in undertaking vital asset renewal and investment for our essential utilities – the gas, electricity and water sector; and of course the current extensive roll out of high speed broadband.

As a sector we have responded to the more stringent guidance of Public Health England and this underlines the fact that our essential ‘yellow light’ teams are safely playing their part in keeping Britain moving. However we need to maintain the intricate network of supplies that – if not urgently addressed – will impact the SME’s who are able and willing to undertake these vital repairs.

Spring has arrived and substantial schemes of work have been programmed for vital major maintenance and surface treatments to extend the life of roads that have been under so much stress over the recent winter and will fail if not repaired before the autumn. Working with the highways sector we need Government to convey to the media and social media about the highly valued nature of our work at this time critical point. No one will thank us when the ‘lockdown’ is lifted to then close our roads that have continued to atrophy.

We are already seeing quiet roads allow teams to complete schemes in record time. The next 6-8 weeks represent a unique challenge but an equal opportunity to expedite repairs and help keep services moving and our economy running and with your support we can ensure that our teams and supply chains across ‘yellow light’ service can play our part in supporting ‘blue light’ services and keeping Britain moving.

Yours sincerely

John A. Lamb FCIHT FCILT MSc BA (Hons)
LGTAG President 2018-19