Stemming the tide of violence and abuse aimed at workers maintaining Britain’s roads and the innovations being introduced to speed up road repairs across the country is the focus of a visit by Shadow Road Minister Daniel Zeichner to contractors in Cambridgeshire.
Contractors Skanska and WJ Lt are hosting the visit, at Skanska’s depot on Madingley Road, Cambridge. Mr Zeichner will be briefed on the growing problem of verbal and physical abuse aimed at road workers who maintain and repair the UK’s road network.
“Road workers are frequently being exposed to verbal and physical abuse and it is not uncommon for them to have to dodge objects thrown directly at them from cars and lorries. In more extreme cases, workers have been attacked with baseball bats or deliberately driven at by drivers,” says Paul Aldridge, Managing Director of road marking contractor WJ South.
The issue is seen as a growing problem and is the subject of a campaign being run by trade bodies the Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA) and the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) who have invited Mr Zeichner to hear first-hand about the problem. In Cambridgeshire, road workers have been wearing video badges and advance warning signs are used to deter motorist abuse.
“This is not a new issue, but there is a perception that it is getting worse,” says Geoff Allister Executive Director of HTMA. “We have compiled data on reported incidents over a 20 month period with a total of 347 incidents being reported; of these 75% were verbal in the form of swearing, shouting, hand gestures and face to face threats without physical violence, However, the remaining 25% of incidents included shooting with guns and air rifles, throwing items such as screwdrivers, along with kicking and punching.
“Workers in other key services, such as the NHS have already highlighted the issue of public abuse, and the highway maintenance sector finds it equally unacceptable that our workforce – undertaking an already dangerous job – should be exposed to this type of intimidation and periodic violence,” said Paul Aldridge who is also Chairman of the RSMA.
In addition to taking their concerns to Mr Zeichner, the two organisations are raising the issue with Government Ministers and members of the Transport Select Committee as part of an awareness-raising exercise and to call on Government to support action to address the problem.
Mr Zeichner will also see innovations that are saving time and money to improve the road network across the county; he will see Skanska’s award-winning pothole fire-breathing ‘dragon’ pothole patcher which since 2016 has been at work in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire and Oxfordshire, with great results: Covering 23,000 miles, fixing 29,779 potholes with savings of £2 million.