Plymouth gearing up for new road maintenance contract

Preparations are progressing well for the transfer of Plymouth’s road maintenance services to South West Highways (SWH) in April.

Some functions are moving back to the Council under the new contract to ensure greater control over which works are carried out where and when.

Functions we will manage include: inspections, audits and road safety; co-ordination and licensing of roadworks; budget, contract, programme and asset management; street lighting; traffic management and control; customer services and scheme design.

SWH will manage the physical construction and maintenance works, including the winter roads service.

It will provide dedicated customer liaison officers, as well as a public information portal where people can view current and upcoming works and get real-time progress updates for each site. It will also trial innovative technology, such as gully monitoring software to reduce the risk of flooding on the highway.

We and SWH have been working together to ensure staff are geared up for the changes, while reviewing all the ‘back office’ systems and introducing a new highways information management system (HIMS) to manage and co-ordinate works.

HIMS will hold details of all the city’s highway assets and their condition, from roads, footways and bridges to streetlights, traffic signals and signs. It will link directly to the self-service system on our website, so that people get a more prompt, personal and detailed response to any problems they report.

As soon as an issue is reported, the system will send the details through to our highway inspectors for assessment. Hand-held terminals will allow inspectors to pick up reports while they are out and about, upload photographs and information to the system and automatically generate works orders for SWH. This will mean repairs can be actioned more quickly and help keep highways data more accurate and up-to-date.

The system will also link directly to our procurement and finance systems, as well as those at South West Highways, meaning works can be ordered, invoiced and paid for more efficiently.

Councillor Steve Ricketts, Cabinet Member for Transport and Housing Delivery, said: “We’ve made it a priority to keep Plymouth moving and residents deserve highways services that are efficient, cost-effective, innovative and customer-focussed.

“As part of the new contract we are bringing some functions back to the Council, so that we have total control over which works are carried out where and when. This will enable us to focus our resources where they are most needed, both locally and strategically, as well as provide a more responsive service for our customers.

“This will include working collaboratively with SWH, as well as Devon and Somerset County Councils, to find ways of achieving ‘more for less’ – for example by co-ordinating our activity or procuring materials together.”

“A lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to ensure services are transferred to the Council and SWH as seamlessly as possible and that we set off on the best possible footing when the new contract starts in April. Project teams have been looking at everything from office space, IT, vehicles and equipment to staffing structures, health and safety, customer reporting channels and all the processes that sit behind the service.”

David Binding, Chairman of South West Highways Ltd, said: “SWH are looking forward to successfully partnering with Plymouth City, and collaborating with adjacent authorities, to give a customer focused and efficient service.

“The mobilisation of the new contract is progressing well with resources and processes being established in anticipation of achieving a smooth transfer on the 1 April start date.”