County helps utilities work together to keep disruption down

Somerset County Council has been helping utility companies work together to keep disruption to a minimum during a major scheme of essential works along the A371 this autumn.

The authority has helped Wales & West Utilities, Bristol Water and Gigaclear team up to ensure their much-needed works are coordinated cause as little disruption as possible for motorists.

The A371 Wells Road between Draycott and Rodney Stoke has been subject to several water leaks and gas repairs in recent times and mains renewal works by Wales & West Utilities and Bristol Water cannot be delayed any longer.

Gigaclear also needs to install fibre cable in the area this year as part of the ongoing project to deliver superfast broadband.

All three schemes require a road closure and are being planned jointly in conjunction with Somerset County Council to minimise disruption as much as possible.

A combined scheme will begin on 1 October and run through to March with works split into phases.

Working together under a single road closure has a number of benefits:

  • It reduces the overall duration of the closure as works can overlap. Three separate closures would take much longer.
  • There will be opportunities for the utilities to trench share to reduce excavations. This speeds up work and reduces noise disturbance for residents.
  • It minimises disruption to school and public transport.
  • It reduces potential unplanned disruption caused by emergency works to repair leaks.

Councillor John Woodman, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, said: “None of these works are County Council works, but this is a great example of how we can help other organisations work together to minimise disruption to the public.

“A road closure is always the last resort, but here we have three essential schemes where no other options are possible.

“Everyone always says, why dig up the road three times – why not work together? We’re doing the right thing by encouraging collaboration to ensure all three projects are completed as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”

Barry Sale, Wales & West Utilities Programme Controller for the area, is managing the gas pipe upgrade work and said: “We know that working on roads like these is not ideal, but it really is essential to make sure we keep the gas flowing to heat homes and power businesses in the area, and to make sure the gas network is fit for the future. We’ll have a team of gas engineers on site throughout the project to make sure our work is completed as safely and as quickly as possible while keeping disruption to a minimum.

“We’re very aware of the effect that our work can have on communities and commuters and we’re working closely with the other utilities and Somerset County Council so we can complete this essential work and keep disruption to a minimum.”

Bristol Water’s Chief Customer Officer Ben Newby said: “We recognise how frustrating it has been for residents and motorists in this area who have been disrupted by our numerous attempts to resolve supply issues over the past few years, which have been hampered by the road layout and difficulties in closing the route to carry out a fuller upgrade.

“This is therefore a great opportunity not only for us to implement a permanent solution but also for four organisations to work together for the benefit of the local community in the Cheddar valley. This work is going to be a landmark opportunity for Rodney Stoke, Draycott and the surrounding towns and villages to benefit from improved gas, water and superfast broadband supplies.

“Thanks should go to Somerset County Council for looking at all these works and planning so that Bristol Water, Wales & West Utilities and Gigaclear can now work together to reduce disruption while completing a massive joint project to improve supplies.”

Further information including details of each phase of work and a combined Q&A sheet can be found at www.travelsomerset.co.uk/A371. This will be updated as the scheme progresses.

You can also stay up to date with the latest on the roads by following @TravelSomerset on Twitter.