Agency under fire over road sign costs

A Cambridgeshire politician has called for a spending review after the Highways Agency told him it would cost £30,000 to put up two small safety signs on a rural road.

MP for North East Cambridgeshire Steve Barclay, who also sits on a parliamentary committee that looks at wasteful spending, said it is one of the most overly expensive cases he has ever encountered.

Barclay lobbied the Highways Agency to introduce signs warning motorists of upcoming turns into Lindens Close, near the village hall at Thorney Toll, on the A47 between Guyhirn and Thorney.

Residents feel the road is an accident hot-spot, but Barclay was shocked when the Highways Agency’s divisional director David Gingell told him the cost of two road safety signs would be £30,000.

The high estimate was because as well as signs, the agency would have to pay for new poles, traffic management surveys, workers to do the installation work and then for ongoing supervision.

Barclay told the Peterborough Evening Telegraph: “Such a ridiculous figure for the installation of two simple signs is unbelievable.

“As a member of the Public Accounts Committee I often see wasteful spending, but this strikes me as one of the most extreme.

“If this is what they spend on two small signs, the rest of their spending needs investigation.

“I will be writing to the National Audit Office asking them to investigate this issue on a national scale.

“Not only has the Highways Agency quoted sky high figures for work, but they are also not listening to the needs of local residents and this needs to change.”

Wisbech St Mary’s parish councillor John Fish said: “All we need is two signs saying there is a left turn and a right for Linden’s Close.

“I thought it would be £1,000 at most, it’s absolutely barmy.”

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “We suggested that a less expensive alternative might be for the village hall to erect a direction sign on their own land, subject to local planning approvals.

“Safety is our top priority. Warning signs are not normally provided for accesses off a trunk road for facilities such as village halls.

“There are no safety grounds to justify warning signs. Nor is there justification for signing to direct traffic from the trunk road.

“Although we see no need for the signs, we were asked by Steve Barclay to provide an estimated cost.

“The quoted cost of £30,000 could eventually be less, but to calculate the cost more exactly would require detailed study. Funding that cannot be justified, as we do not consider there to be a need for the signs.”

 

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