Sign of the Times?

Do you ever wonder if councils are strapped for cash because they waste so much of it? In January 2016 I noticed a pair of these council road signs on a minor public road a mile away from Graveller Towers here in sunny Gasforth. What struck me was that, i) the major road at the T-junction ahead is not a dual carriageway and never has been, and, ii) this sign does not appear to be in the Traffic Signs Directions (the then-current version) and so is unlawful anyway. A letter winged its way on 11 January to Newcastle City Council (whose highways people are generally pretty businesslike and helpful these days).

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A prompt reply confirmed that the signs “provide incorrect advice” and “need to be amended”, but no admission that they do not conform to the regulations, and, from the records, no idea when they were erected, or why. But, anyway, “we will now arrange for the signs to be removed and replaced ….” Fair enough.

12 June. “You wrote to me on 19 January 2016 telling me that the ‘incorrect’ road signs on Heathery Lane will be removed and replaced with correct (and not dangerous) signs. Now, five months on from my letter to you, the unlawful and dangerously misleading signs are still in place. Surely it does not take five months to sort something like this? At the least, the incorrect signs should be removed or covered (as DfT guidance recommends).” Yes. DfT guidance advises that incorrect road signs can simply be covered-up as a temporary measure. How long would that take?

1 August. “You emailed me on 23 June telling me that you had ‘chased up’ the removal of these 2 unlawful and dangerously misleading road signs. Removal is the work of 10 minutes for a crew already in that area. You said that you ‘anticipate’ that the signs would be removed during July. Well, as at 28 July they were still there. This has been going on for 25 weeks now. Absolutely ridiculous. Can you please tell me when this matter will be concluded?”

18 August. “Thank you for your email, I am sorry for the delay in my response, I have just found that I had not replied to your email. I have asked one of my team to get a date for these works to be undertaken and will ask them to forward this to you as I am now on leave for a couple of weeks. cc Streetworks for booking in and out and street filing.”

23 August. “I have been asked … to chase up the removal of these signs. I have spoken to our works section and they have confirmed that the old signs have been removed but the new sign, although ordered has not been received yet. I have been assured that the new sign will be installed as soon as they receive it.”

29 August. The two incorrect signs have finally gone after more than seven months, along with one of the poles. One new sign is in place.

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But does it really need seven months, a senior highways engineer (BEng CEng MCIHT), and a works order for ‘Streetworks’, for a job that a local crew could have done in 15 minutes straight after lunch? Maybe it does, and maybe these days it would have needed a ‘Streetworks’ order just to put a black sack over each and gaffer it in place? In this case might the admin have cost more than the gang work Itself?

Truly, the world is going to Hell in a handcart.