There’s a first time for everything and this commentary is by request.
As anyone who’s been keeping up with social media in Winnersh will know, dissatisfaction with WBC’s Highway’s Department has reached epic levels.
Back in mid-September, a bit of King Street Lane at the Winnersh Crossroads got resurfaced as part of WBC’s regular programme of works and, after three nights of road closures, they’d done a good job.
Smooth surface – check. Red Anti-skid – check. White lines – check. Traffic Loops … oops.
The traffic loops are those black zig-zag, diamond or square shaped lines that you see in the road surface and they’re the clever bits that sense all the cars and lorries so that the traffic lights work properly.
No loops – no signals. No signals – no traffic, it’s as simple as that – even when it’s dead wrong and there’s a LOT of traffic – all waiting to cross the junction.
This has meant that a journey from Mole Road up to Winnersh Crossroads now takes up to 40 minutes to cover just half a mile. Not so much MPH as HPM.
The works to fix the problem were scheduled for the night of October 28. Most residents felt that a five week+ delay in doing a job that should have finished on September 19 demonstrates just how poorly WBC’s Highways Department is perceived.
But last week, the works for October 28th were quietly dropped.
No notification, no managing public expectation – not even letting Winnersh Borough Councillors know in advance.
It turns out that Network Rail want to close Wokingham’s Level crossing on the night of October 28th and Winnersh Cross Roads is part of the HGV Diversion route.
To add insult, Highways England want to partially close King Street Lane at the M4 bridge, so that their inspectors can check the bridge. So good old WBC Highways has agreed to them doing it on the night of October 28th as well.
As WBC Highways needed a road closure to fix the problem of their own creation, the works were put back by over two weeks to the night of November 12th.
Thus cementing public opinion of our fearless Highways department.
But things may not be quite as Highways have claimed.
It sounded odd that re-installing the traffic loops should need a road closure.
So using Google Streetview to find out where all the loops were beforehand, I mapped them onto an aerial view of Winnersh Crossroads and King Street Lane.
Which led to a discovery!
There’s a hatched off section of the road separating all the traffic loops from the southbound side of King Street Lane – giving almost two metres clearance from the work area to the traffic going past.
That section of road already carries huge HGV deliveries to the local supermarket. So there was a chance that instead of a full road closure, perhaps some traffic lights could be put in place instead and the Network Rail diversion route would still work (at 3am in the morning).
Surely it couldn’t be that simple? So I sent a copy of the diagrams to a former borough-highways engineer and asked their opinion.
Which was that the work could be done safely with just traffic lights, not closure.
Being an amateur and therefore knowing little, I was not so much surprised as astonished to get that opinion.
So the next step was ‘intensive survey’ of the King Street Lane M4 bridge.
You doubt this?
And well you should, because the ‘intensive survey’ used Google street view and revealed that the surface layer of concrete has broken away and exposed the steel reinforcing rods at either end of the bridge and these are now looking very rusty.
The ‘intensive survey’ also revealed the difference between the roof beams under the main carriageway and the far less heavily engineered roof section at either end under the hard shoulder.
Which you’d probably want checked for strength as the hard shoulder is becoming a fully loaded lane as part of the M4 J3-12 ‘smart motorway’ project.
There’s been a number of public meetings as regards the junction of the Winnersh Relief Road and King Street Lane. Residents living near the new traffic lights have requested that ‘Keep Clear’ signage be applied to the road surface so that they can get out of their roads (Grasmere / Churchill) or their houses.
On at least two occasions, WBC Highways have indicated that this should be possible.
Two years later and nothing’s happened. So one wonders if WBC Highways are suffering a shortage of paint or if it’s something more serious.
In another ‘first’, WBC were contacted before the writing of this commentary but had yet to respond as of the copy deadline.
Be that as it may, as many of us are critically aware, it’s time for WBC’s Highways Department to be managing itself more effectively and delivering benefits that residents will understand and appreciate.
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