21st April 2020

COVID 19 Highways Operations Update – Highway Maintenance Services – Blackpool Council

All our planned highway safety inspections are continuing and are up and running with the appropriate guidance being followed by our inspection staff. Changes on how we deliver our inspection work are in place and include, all our Highway Inspectors working individually and not returning to the main depot and the office environment to gather together. Home working, telephone calls and Video calls are supporting what they do.

Street Works inspections and liaison with our Utility colleagues on their work and how they deliver that work on our network is also ongoing and in place to good effect, the same measures and guidance is playing its part in keeping staff safe and allowing the Street Works team to continue its close liaison and dialogue with the Utility sector to deliver our essential maintenance and investment work alongside their programmed work, open and active dialogue is key to the success of all our efforts.

Blackpool’s own operational, engineering team have given the current situation and restrictions much thought and consideration. We have introduced a series of measures and changes that enable us to continue to deliver essential works, from our reactive emergency works to our small, medium scale works up to our larger schemes and capital investment pubic realm schemes.

These measures include a split shift system of working, with our operational teams split and reduced in numbers, with a morning shift and an afternoon shift a one man one vehicle approach, toolbox talks on site etiquette, keeping a distance, practical consideration of onsite practices. With a stop, consider, agree at a site level best practice ethos being instilled in our staff, along with a robust feedback process on any particular issues that arise. Then sharing the learning across the teams.

Our large ongoing public realm schemes that are being delivered as part of our investment in the town center are being approached in the same way, from the site operations to the management of the scheme everything has been reviewed and new processes are in place.

We have been working hard with our supply chain partners on how best to ensure continuity of supply and to keep the goods and services arriving, the support and willingness to keep these essential works moving and on to completion has been superb. Keeping the lines of communication open and active is key to this process.

Some works by necessity have been paused or moved, instances where our identified works were adjacent to or near a supermarket and the often large queue to get in for example. But by and large we are delivering right across our remit of work. Planning of future schemes and investment is also ongoing our recent successful bid to the DFT Challenge fund and our plans to deliver this innovative £5m project are moving at pace and delivery will begin within this year’s good weather window.

The network has seen a huge drop in use, traffic volumes are down both pedestrian and vehicular this has also given us an opportunity to deal with difficult works, the jobs that have a significant impact on the network and network flows in normal times, we have taken the opportunity to reconsider and re-plan these works whilst network use is at this unprecedented low level.

Generally the Authority across its entire remit has re-viewed its delivery methods, staff have been redeployed from our leisure services and catering services for example to help our commitment to support the most vulnerable residents, 12 help centers across the town have been set up and are run by the Authority, redeployed staff and volunteers, partnerships with the private sector. These centers deliver food parcels, support, medicines etc.  Highways support for these centers and their function and that of our colleagues in the emergency services is paramount, ensuring there are no works or conflicts on key routes, outside hospitals or routes in and around the help hub’s.

Blackpool is committed to keeping the network moving and the goods and services that rely on that network confident it will be available and fit for purpose.