Those living on the Isle of Wight are this week being told by the Isle of Wight Council to get used to increased disruption on the Island’s roads while the road network is upgraded under the Highways Private Finance Initiative (PFI) by Island Roads.
Following a prolonged period of negative feedback from Islanders surrounding Island Roads’ roadworks, the Council have issued a warning that the disruption is set to continue.
Last week saw roadworks extended by days following the break down of the brand new asphalt plant at Wight Building Materials, resulting in works at Whippingham – a current bugbare for motorists – being suspended due to ‘technical issues’.
Councillor Phil Jordan, the Isle of Wight Council Executive member responsible for Highways PFI said he was sure inconvenience in the short term would be more than offset by the benefits of having a greatly improved highway network.
Now in the third full year of the seven-year core investment period – in which much of the road improvement work will take place – the Highways PFI is currently entering its most intensive period of works. A number of main roads are included in this year’s programme, with work currently underway in Whippingham and Arreton. Future years will see other main road major programmes taking place.
Councillor Jordan said that while Island Roads was required by the contract to minimise disruption, some inconvenience was inevitable given the nature and scale of work. He said:
“Obviously no one likes their routine disturbed or disruptedbut, conversely, everyone wants better roads.
“It was as recently as 2012, that a study found our roads to be the worst in the country. As of August 2009, 20 per cent of this network was subject to width and/or weight restrictions and the problem would have only worsened given the financial restraints imposed upon the Isle of Wight Council.
“Urgent action was required if we were ever to get the improvements the Island so obviously needed. Leaving aside any feelings we may have on the concept of a PFI investment contract, what we are seeing now is the kind of intense work we must get used to. There will be more temporary traffic signals, more road closures and diversions and inevitably more tailbacks. There will be longer journeys and longer journey times and, sometimes, work at night.
“All this is the price of turning one of the country’s worst highway networks into one of the best. This scale of improvement simply cannot be brought about without a degree of disturbance and inconvenience. We have to, to some extent, grin and bear it and get used to having our routines interrupted while these improvements are made to our roads.”
Councillor Jordan acknowledged steps already taken by Island Roads to reduce the impact on residents, for example, at Arreton, where a temporary access road has been created to assist the businesses.
“It will not always be possible for this sort of help to be given – nor reasonable to expect it – but in the coming period, I will be urging Island Roads to take all appropriate steps to assist commerce and residents affected by roadworks. I will insist that wide consultation takes place before any road closure, but in return, I would appeal to residents to be realistic in their expectations and I believe the vast majority are.
“The PFI will deliver a network that, finally, is of the quality we all want to see. But we need to be prepared to put up with some inconvenience before we get there. Years of underinvestment in the highway network will not suddenly be put right overnight and without, disruption, sometimes major. My hope and expectation, given the benefits the project offers to residents, tourism and regeneration, is that this will be a price well worth paying.”