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Paving the way in best practice

Paving the way in best practice

The Deal is very much real for Wigan’s highways. Having scooped both the Best Service Team in Highways Maintenance at the APSE Service Awards as well as the APSE Highways Innovation Award in 2020, we take a closer look at the secrets to success for this serial winner.

Wigan Council is the 9th largest metropolitan authority and maintains 1,160km highways, 36,500 street-lights and over 400 structures, worth £1.62bn. Management of the highway infrastructure and services are carried out in-house by the Highways and Network Management Group. Over the last 4 years this group has been successful in bidding for £6.5m DfT Challenge and Flood Recovery funding and developed Invest to Save business cases that have secured £19.9m from council funding. 

To achieve these successes, we have transformed the way we work – not only the systems and processes – but our staff and contractor behaviour’s, values and ethos. The Council recognises that its staff and contractors are its most valuable asset; and this approach has empowered the workforce to be innovative and creative to bring forward new ideas to improve our services. 

Wigan Council operates as a part of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and collaborates on the delivery of its highway services through shared services. There are now GM frameworks in place for the key services of highways, bridges and winter maintenance. Moreover, where practicable, service standards have been aligned across boundaries to ensure consistency for highway users, most notably around highway safety inspections and resulting minor repairs.

Regional and national leader in carriageways 

The condition of the borough’s carriageways is regularly monitored and annual reporting to DfT shows that the % of carriageways in need of maintenance soon is being maintained in ‘steady-state’. Their condition is also measured as being some of the best, both regionally and nationally, over the last 5 years:

Road Class

2015/16

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

2019/20

GM

Average

NationalAverage

Principal

3%

4%

3%

3%

3%

5%

3%

OtherClassified

3%

4%

2%

3%

2%

5%

6%

UnClassified

3%

4%

5%

6%

10%

15%

16%

*GM/National average is shown for the full 5-year period

 

 

Over the same period and using the principles of both asset management and ‘prevention is better than cure‘, the overall number of highway defects has been reduced by 29%.

APSE benchmarking data shows that the rate of carriageway defects for Wigan is 0.23 per km, which is well below the family average 0.42 per km and lower than the figure for All Authorities, with an average 0.33 per km.

Safety first 

Moreover, 99.76% of Wigan’s highway safety inspections have been completed within their target time, which compares very well with the family and All Authorities averages of 91.47% and 92.45% respectively.

All highway safety inspections and minor repairs are recorded digitally via hand-held IT using the YOTTA Mayrise system. APSE benchmarking, shows the council’s performance in repairing highway defects is also top performing.

However, we have identified key areas for improvement. This has included ‘merging’ the Network Management and Infrastructure Maintenance Group’s services to make them more efficient, with a ‘single point’ of contact, accountability and improved service reporting to Members and residents.

Some ‘quick-wins’

Using our Accountable Team approach, several ‘quick-win’ operational service changes have been implemented, delivering immediate benefits:

  • Use of a ‘one man in a van’ approach for emergency and high priority defects was introduced as a trial in January 2020 and improved performance levels to 99% completion for these category works.
  • Weekly quality and performance meetings jointly held with the inspectors and operatives have significantly reduced the number of sub-standard repairs that were being experienced.

Our Highway Services have been APSE Performance Networks Finalist every year since 2016.

Success with structures

The council maintains 112 road bridges with a bridge condition BCIAV = 89.54, with no current weight restrictions in place. This compares favourably with family/All averages of 84.17/85.01%.

A significant part of achieving this outcome is by completing 100% of the General and Principal inspections within their target time, which compares favourably with the family average 87.23/87.92% and much higher than the figure for ‘all’ authorities, with an average 85.27/83.16%. All inspections are recorded digitally via handheld IT and PONTIS database.

This year our structures team have played a key role in the creation of a new £20m, 2.1km link road which will form part of the GM Key Route Network. The creation of new structures and repurposing of existing structures has offered unique and contrasting challenges, as detailed below.

Poolstock Culvert is an existing Victorian era structure being repurposed to act as a culvert under for the new road. It is a four-ring brick arch of approximately 29.5m length. To ensure the structure could provide serviceability for the new road, various defects needed to be addressed, particularly 4 longitudinal cracks.

Ground scan, ultrasonic radar and an endoscope were used to detect the full extent of the cracks. Remediation works using ‘stitching’ of the cracks was carried out using stainless steel rods inserted at 30-45 degrees on either side of the cracks as per the guidance from CIRIA C656.

By contrast, ‘Poolstock Bridge’ is a brand new integral concrete bridge. To minimise road closures for its construction, it was decided to use W12 precast prestressed beams with each beam having a span of 31m and weighing 68 tonnes each. This work was completed over only 3 weekends.

Our Highway Structures service has been shortlisted as finalist in the APSE 2020 Innovation Awards.

Highway Drainage

Over recent years, our borough experienced a number of flooding events that significantly challenged the resilience of our highway infrastructure. Following HMEP guidance on the management of drainage assets, the council has undertaken a full review of its highway drainage assets including:

  • Working with YOTTA, In-Touch and KaarbonTech to create a comprehensive asset records;
  • Undertaken annual surveys to develop our risk-based approach for planned and reactive maintenance;
  • Partnered with Sapphire Utilities to undertake condition surveys of drains located on the KRN, Resilient Network and known Flood Risk areas;
  • Evaluated the use of sensor technology and how this could be used to improve responding to severe weather events.

This approach supported our successful DfT Challenge Fund 2b bid for Highway Drainage Infrastructure Rehabilitation Programme, for which we were awarded £884k and will be implemented over 2020-21 years.

What next for Wigan’s Highways team?

Wigan Council has successfully transformed its highway services, rather than cut them, to support the council in delivering its £160m budget savings.

As a result, our highway services have been recognised regionally and nationally, over several years, as being high performing, offering vfm and delivering efficiency through innovation. Moreover, customer feedback shows our services are highly valued by our councillor’s and communities; and the council has demonstrated this through continued support for capital Invest to Save opportunities and retaining its services in-house.

Promoting excellence in public services

APSE (Association for Public Service Excellence) is a not for profit unincorporated association working with over 300 councils throughout the UK. Promoting excellence in public services, APSE is the foremost specialist in local authority frontline services, hosting a network for frontline service providers in areas such as waste and refuse collection, parks and environmental services, cemeteries and crematorium, environmental health, leisure, school meals, cleaning, housing and building maintenance.

 

 

 

 

 

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