Road contractor, Ringway, 'failing to keep on top of the basics' says Councillor Steven Giles-Medhurst

A Watford politician has hit out at the performance of Hertfordshire County Council’s new £220 million highways contractor just four months into the seven year contract.

Ringway signed a contract with the council to maintain the county’s 3,000 miles of roads and pavements from October 2012 until 2019.

The deal is expected to earn them £35 million in the first year alone.

But residents have been left frustrated at a perceived increase in the amount of potholes on the county’s roads and the time it takes to repair them.

In an open letter to Councillor Stuart Pile, executive member for highways and transport, Watford and Oxhey county councillor, Steven Giles-Medhurst attacks the quality of work done so far by Ringway and accused them of "failing to keep on top of the basics".

Councillor Pile said hazardous potholes should be temporarily repaired within 24 hours of them being reported but added permanent repairs were preferable.

Lib Dem group leader, Councillor Giles-Medhurst said: "Despite assurances given before the award of the contract, it seems that we are not getting value for money.

"Ringway are failing to keep on top of the basics, namely the job of maintaining our roads and footways.

"With a cold snap forecast and a backlog of potholes it seems that the situation will only get worse and if it does then the county council will have been caught short yet again - unless there is a dramatic improvement in the next week."

The amount paid to Ringway each year is dependent on performance but Councillor Giles-Medhurst said he expects the full value of the contract over the next seven years to be £220 million.

He added "The experience that my group, and I understand other county councillors and certainly residents, have been having, has led us to question Ringway’s performance and its ability to carry out the scope and scale of these works.

"I am sure the experiences that my group have been having while serving 17 county divisions is mirrored in other areas to judge from newspaper reports I have seen."

Ringway took over the contract, replacing an Amey Lafarge joint venture and Mouchel as highways contractor in October 2012 but Councillor Giles-Medhurst says there is still confusion about what their responsibilities are.

He said: "I would also say that my group are greatly perturbed that not only do Ringway appear unable to fulfil fully what we expect of them but they appear to be trying to pass the buck in some instances, saying things are not in their contract/for them to do.

"An example here appears to be that they don’t appear to know they should be fixing flood problems."

Neither Councillor Pile nor Ringway could be reached for comment at time of publication.

Comments (14)

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10:58am Tue 22 Jan 13

crazyfrog says...

so if theres £35 million pounds profit in the first year alone why didnt HCC run this service in house and save the HCC taxpayers £35 million a year????????
so if theres £35 million pounds profit in the first year alone why didnt HCC run this service in house and save the HCC taxpayers £35 million a year???????? crazyfrog

11:01am Tue 22 Jan 13

crazyfrog says...

The potholes in field way in mill end are worse than ever now i think its a matter of time now before an accident occurs there, and these were brought up in another WO story a week or so back with promises to fix them! what the hell is going on?
The potholes in field way in mill end are worse than ever now i think its a matter of time now before an accident occurs there, and these were brought up in another WO story a week or so back with promises to fix them! what the hell is going on? crazyfrog

11:17am Tue 22 Jan 13

TRT says...

It's not just potholes. The unrepaired street lighting sage has now reached epic proportions. Literally thousands of lights must be out across the whole county now judging by the number of failures in Watford alone. The junction of Bushey Arches and Eastbury Road is now completely unlit save for light spilling over from Lower High Street, Eastbury Road itself has three failed lights on the stretch up to Deacon's Hill, there are five lights out on Radlett Road between Colonial Way and Orphenage Road, one of the very tall lights is out on Cassio Road, there are dozens of illuminated road signs out in the area too. And these lights have been out since at least October when Ringway took over. There are supposed to be "spotter patrols" which visit every light in the county every 10 days. Well, hats off for equal opportunities, they must have employed blind people as spotters!

I wouldn't care so much if we weren't paying for a service, but we are and they are boasting about the contract in the various trade and national media. It's considered a highly lucrative contract, it seems. I can see why - you don't actually have to do the job, just take the money and run with it.
It's not just potholes. The unrepaired street lighting sage has now reached epic proportions. Literally thousands of lights must be out across the whole county now judging by the number of failures in Watford alone. The junction of Bushey Arches and Eastbury Road is now completely unlit save for light spilling over from Lower High Street, Eastbury Road itself has three failed lights on the stretch up to Deacon's Hill, there are five lights out on Radlett Road between Colonial Way and Orphenage Road, one of the very tall lights is out on Cassio Road, there are dozens of illuminated road signs out in the area too. And these lights have been out since at least October when Ringway took over. There are supposed to be "spotter patrols" which visit every light in the county every 10 days. Well, hats off for equal opportunities, they must have employed blind people as spotters! I wouldn't care so much if we weren't paying for a service, but we are and they are boasting about the contract in the various trade and national media. It's considered a highly lucrative contract, it seems. I can see why - you don't actually have to do the job, just take the money and run with it. TRT

11:31am Tue 22 Jan 13

MarsLander says...

Outsourcing can work if the contracts are well specified with what is covered and with penalty clauses for when the contractor does a poor job.

Did the county have one of these contracts? One suspects not.

Contractors often rely on the things left out of a contract by accident to make huge profits as "extra jobs".
Outsourcing can work if the contracts are well specified with what is covered and with penalty clauses for when the contractor does a poor job. Did the county have one of these contracts? One suspects not. Contractors often rely on the things left out of a contract by accident to make huge profits as "extra jobs". MarsLander

12:33pm Tue 22 Jan 13

garston tony says...

Earnings are different to profit.

HCC highways werent exactly brilliant, if this lot are worse then goodness help road and pavement users!
Earnings are different to profit. HCC highways werent exactly brilliant, if this lot are worse then goodness help road and pavement users! garston tony

12:54pm Tue 22 Jan 13

E.Coli says...

Does any one which pot hole has been repaired in Watford?.
Does any one which pot hole has been repaired in Watford?. E.Coli

1:03pm Tue 22 Jan 13

TRT says...

Errr... well I can tell you it's not that bit in the middle of Clarendon Road near Shady Lane which has sunk a further six inches since Christmas, nor is it the sink hole on Cassio Road at the junction of Upton Road, which is now spreading across both lanes, and it's definitely not the ones on the downhill stretch of Orphanage Road near Radlett Road which you can't avoid without straddling the centre line of the road...
Maybe it's that one on the M25 which was reported yesterday? It comes to something when the local newspaper runs a story about a pothole actually being filled. No, hang on, that'll be the Highways Agency.
No, sorry, I've drawn a blank on that one.
Errr... well I can tell you it's not that bit in the middle of Clarendon Road near Shady Lane which has sunk a further six inches since Christmas, nor is it the sink hole on Cassio Road at the junction of Upton Road, which is now spreading across both lanes, and it's definitely not the ones on the downhill stretch of Orphanage Road near Radlett Road which you can't avoid without straddling the centre line of the road... Maybe it's that one on the M25 which was reported yesterday? It comes to something when the local newspaper runs a story about a pothole actually being filled. No, hang on, that'll be the Highways Agency. No, sorry, I've drawn a blank on that one. TRT

3:16pm Tue 22 Jan 13

not a regular says...

As someone who works in the industry I would just like to list a few points:

Ringway are even worse than Mouchel at managing a contract.
Managing 3,000 miles of roads is extremely difficult.
Most local authorities outside of the TfL road network will struggle as sub bases are failing (caused a lot of the time by outdated water pipes and whoever else had the contract before them) and there just isn’t the resources available to repair to a sustainable level, only repair to the surfacing as that is what the public is after and essentially what wins and loses contracts.
Most councils can’t just “bring it in house” without initially investing about £1m per 500 miles and of course a depot to store the machinery and materials, not to mention the staff and their local government pensions.
The most cost effective method of pothole repair is to fill ‘em temporarily and then come back at a later date and do a batch of proper reinstatements (unfortunately this is rarely done, or at least rarely done properly).
Asphalt should be laid in warm (i.e. day), dry (i.e. 10 days a year) conditions and left for ~2 hours (i.e. over night) before reopening to traffic. The public complain when it’s done during the day because their journey takes 3 minutes longer, they also complain it takes too long to do even if it’s snowing and raining. They also complain that it fails or costs too much when the works are undertaken at night time in the cold and rain while they are tucked up in bed.
The Highways department will not have enough resources to check the quality of reactive maintenance reinstatements and unfortunately have to hope that the contractor is doing a good job. Having an engineer out on a day’s pay (plus travel expenses, plus any night works) to check £500 worth of works is not going to work out in the long term. Spot checks might work too, but it’s usually the stuff below the surface that needs to be properly installed.
As someone who works in the industry I would just like to list a few points: Ringway are even worse than Mouchel at managing a contract. Managing 3,000 miles of roads is extremely difficult. Most local authorities outside of the TfL road network will struggle as sub bases are failing (caused a lot of the time by outdated water pipes and whoever else had the contract before them) and there just isn’t the resources available to repair to a sustainable level, only repair to the surfacing as that is what the public is after and essentially what wins and loses contracts. Most councils can’t just “bring it in house” without initially investing about £1m per 500 miles and of course a depot to store the machinery and materials, not to mention the staff and their local government pensions. The most cost effective method of pothole repair is to fill ‘em temporarily and then come back at a later date and do a batch of proper reinstatements (unfortunately this is rarely done, or at least rarely done properly). Asphalt should be laid in warm (i.e. day), dry (i.e. 10 days a year) conditions and left for ~2 hours (i.e. over night) before reopening to traffic. The public complain when it’s done during the day because their journey takes 3 minutes longer, they also complain it takes too long to do even if it’s snowing and raining. They also complain that it fails or costs too much when the works are undertaken at night time in the cold and rain while they are tucked up in bed. The Highways department will not have enough resources to check the quality of reactive maintenance reinstatements and unfortunately have to hope that the contractor is doing a good job. Having an engineer out on a day’s pay (plus travel expenses, plus any night works) to check £500 worth of works is not going to work out in the long term. Spot checks might work too, but it’s usually the stuff below the surface that needs to be properly installed. not a regular

3:23pm Tue 22 Jan 13

TRT says...

I'm sure there was news recently of investment in a machine which makes pothole repair much, much quicker and more effective. You don't address why there are so many failed streetlights going unrepaired either. I appreciate that a little understanding goes a long way, so thank you for the comment, but it doesn't explain away this ridiculous drop in service delivery since September (I know they took over in October, but I have documented evidence about some streetlights that were reported 3rd September 2012 and are STILL out of order).
I'm sure there was news recently of investment in a machine which makes pothole repair much, much quicker and more effective. You don't address why there are so many failed streetlights going unrepaired either. I appreciate that a little understanding goes a long way, so thank you for the comment, but it doesn't explain away this ridiculous drop in service delivery since September (I know they took over in October, but I have documented evidence about some streetlights that were reported 3rd September 2012 and are STILL out of order). TRT

4:16pm Tue 22 Jan 13

not a regular says...

TRT wrote:
I'm sure there was news recently of investment in a machine which makes pothole repair much, much quicker and more effective. You don't address why there are so many failed streetlights going unrepaired either. I appreciate that a little understanding goes a long way, so thank you for the comment, but it doesn't explain away this ridiculous drop in service delivery since September (I know they took over in October, but I have documented evidence about some streetlights that were reported 3rd September 2012 and are STILL out of order).
I don't know a great deal about the Herts contract but I would imagine the street lighting is done via a different contractor altogether.

I'm not condoning the poor service at all, by the way, there is clearly a lot of wasted resources and weak personalities at Herts CC.

A site agent isn't going to deliver value for money if he doesn't have to, contractors are incredibly clever at knowing what they can and can't get away with, and how to do it. It needs strong representation at managerial level that poor performance will not be tolerated.

Whether it is a missed clause in the contract or poor delivery, we will probably never know!
[quote][p][bold]TRT[/bold] wrote: I'm sure there was news recently of investment in a machine which makes pothole repair much, much quicker and more effective. You don't address why there are so many failed streetlights going unrepaired either. I appreciate that a little understanding goes a long way, so thank you for the comment, but it doesn't explain away this ridiculous drop in service delivery since September (I know they took over in October, but I have documented evidence about some streetlights that were reported 3rd September 2012 and are STILL out of order).[/p][/quote]I don't know a great deal about the Herts contract but I would imagine the street lighting is done via a different contractor altogether. I'm not condoning the poor service at all, by the way, there is clearly a lot of wasted resources and weak personalities at Herts CC. A site agent isn't going to deliver value for money if he doesn't have to, contractors are incredibly clever at knowing what they can and can't get away with, and how to do it. It needs strong representation at managerial level that poor performance will not be tolerated. Whether it is a missed clause in the contract or poor delivery, we will probably never know! not a regular

8:14pm Tue 22 Jan 13

Mohandas says...

The problem about the lack of a proper maintenance programme for road & pavement repair is that the overall costs to society is far bigger than the simple patch as the rest of us have to pick up increased bills in car repairs, days lost at work through injuries, higher HNHS costs, increased accidents, etc.The sub contractor and HCC is not looking at the bigger picture and will only respond when someone files a complaint and because they are only interested in driving down costs.
The problem about the lack of a proper maintenance programme for road & pavement repair is that the overall costs to society is far bigger than the simple patch as the rest of us have to pick up increased bills in car repairs, days lost at work through injuries, higher HNHS costs, increased accidents, etc.The sub contractor and HCC is not looking at the bigger picture and will only respond when someone files a complaint and because they are only interested in driving down costs. Mohandas

10:57pm Tue 22 Jan 13

TRT says...

"...will only respond when someone files a complaint and because they are only interested in driving down costs."

Not even then it seems.
"...will only respond when someone files a complaint and because they are only interested in driving down costs." Not even then it seems. TRT

3:17pm Wed 23 Jan 13

crazyfrog says...

not a regular wrote:
As someone who works in the industry I would just like to list a few points: Ringway are even worse than Mouchel at managing a contract. Managing 3,000 miles of roads is extremely difficult. Most local authorities outside of the TfL road network will struggle as sub bases are failing (caused a lot of the time by outdated water pipes and whoever else had the contract before them) and there just isn’t the resources available to repair to a sustainable level, only repair to the surfacing as that is what the public is after and essentially what wins and loses contracts. Most councils can’t just “bring it in house” without initially investing about £1m per 500 miles and of course a depot to store the machinery and materials, not to mention the staff and their local government pensions. The most cost effective method of pothole repair is to fill ‘em temporarily and then come back at a later date and do a batch of proper reinstatements (unfortunately this is rarely done, or at least rarely done properly). Asphalt should be laid in warm (i.e. day), dry (i.e. 10 days a year) conditions and left for ~2 hours (i.e. over night) before reopening to traffic. The public complain when it’s done during the day because their journey takes 3 minutes longer, they also complain it takes too long to do even if it’s snowing and raining. They also complain that it fails or costs too much when the works are undertaken at night time in the cold and rain while they are tucked up in bed. The Highways department will not have enough resources to check the quality of reactive maintenance reinstatements and unfortunately have to hope that the contractor is doing a good job. Having an engineer out on a day’s pay (plus travel expenses, plus any night works) to check £500 worth of works is not going to work out in the long term. Spot checks might work too, but it’s usually the stuff below the surface that needs to be properly installed.
Good post, am i wrong in assuming HCC used to do this work in-house so therefore would of had the infrastructure already in place?
[quote][p][bold]not a regular[/bold] wrote: As someone who works in the industry I would just like to list a few points: Ringway are even worse than Mouchel at managing a contract. Managing 3,000 miles of roads is extremely difficult. Most local authorities outside of the TfL road network will struggle as sub bases are failing (caused a lot of the time by outdated water pipes and whoever else had the contract before them) and there just isn’t the resources available to repair to a sustainable level, only repair to the surfacing as that is what the public is after and essentially what wins and loses contracts. Most councils can’t just “bring it in house” without initially investing about £1m per 500 miles and of course a depot to store the machinery and materials, not to mention the staff and their local government pensions. The most cost effective method of pothole repair is to fill ‘em temporarily and then come back at a later date and do a batch of proper reinstatements (unfortunately this is rarely done, or at least rarely done properly). Asphalt should be laid in warm (i.e. day), dry (i.e. 10 days a year) conditions and left for ~2 hours (i.e. over night) before reopening to traffic. The public complain when it’s done during the day because their journey takes 3 minutes longer, they also complain it takes too long to do even if it’s snowing and raining. They also complain that it fails or costs too much when the works are undertaken at night time in the cold and rain while they are tucked up in bed. The Highways department will not have enough resources to check the quality of reactive maintenance reinstatements and unfortunately have to hope that the contractor is doing a good job. Having an engineer out on a day’s pay (plus travel expenses, plus any night works) to check £500 worth of works is not going to work out in the long term. Spot checks might work too, but it’s usually the stuff below the surface that needs to be properly installed.[/p][/quote]Good post, am i wrong in assuming HCC used to do this work in-house so therefore would of had the infrastructure already in place? crazyfrog

9:44am Mon 28 Jan 13

TRT says...

Well roger me sideways with a broken roadsign. Someone's actually been out and fixed the two lights on Eastbury Road that have been out of action since September. They've also filled in, albeit temporarily, the sink hole on Clarendon Road. Now, I wonder when they'll get round to all the illuminated signs that have failed like the ones on Cassio Road, the very tall light on Cassio Road, the potholes and failed lights on Orphenage Road and Radlett Road, the failed lights and knocked over signs on Stevenson Way...
Well roger me sideways with a broken roadsign. Someone's actually been out and fixed the two lights on Eastbury Road that have been out of action since September. They've also filled in, albeit temporarily, the sink hole on Clarendon Road. Now, I wonder when they'll get round to all the illuminated signs that have failed like the ones on Cassio Road, the very tall light on Cassio Road, the potholes and failed lights on Orphenage Road and Radlett Road, the failed lights and knocked over signs on Stevenson Way... TRT

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