Those of us who have tried since the weekend to get through the Cross Keys and Silk Mills roundabouts between Staplegrove and Norton Fitzwarren will be familiar with the chaos that the works by Wales and West Utilities has caused. I heard from a family who took almost two hours to get to Taunton from Bishops Lydeard, a journey of just 6 miles and how, avoiding the area the next day they reached Poole in Dorset in less time! I have received many messages from irate and frustrated drivers over the last 4 days and have been in regular contact with County Highways about the problem. I have now got them to remove the temporary traffic signals while an improved system is devised and this should be in place today or tomorrow. The work, to replace a worn-out gas main, is suspended until the new traffic management system is in place. I have reproduced below an email that I have recently received from County Highways which gives more context about the works and the problems encountered.
I apologise for the delays over the weekend and this morning at Cross Keys and Silk Mills roundabouts etc.
The works, as you may now know, were for the replacement of a ductile iron gas main by Wales & West Utilities (W&WU) which is part of their national H&S driven replacement programme. The contractor has also had to hand dig at this site due to W&WU’s H&S requirements when works are in close proximity to a HP gas main; this has been further complicated by a high voltage electric cable being at the location and exceptionally thick road construction layers being found.
We had previously co-ordinated the works to start today, however their contractor took it upon themselves to start without our permission on Saturday & Sunday.
Unfortunately, and despite us planning the works in the half term period with W&WU, the traffic flows have been higher than expected along with the works location and close proximity to the two roundabout caused traffic queues and delays.
Moving forward, I have directed W&WU to pull off site ASAP which should be by midday today; as these works are going to take at least another two days to complete and after careful consideration to requirements and traffic flows I am intending to carry out the following:
We will place an emergency one way order restricting traffic on the A358 between Silk Mills Rbt and the Nuffield hospital junction. Traffic will be restricted inbound only, outbound will operate as normal albeit using a small contra flow around the works.
With the A358 at Silk Mills roundabout closed to inbound traffic into the Staplegrove area there will be a diversionary route put in place using Silk Mills – Bindon Rd – Staplegrove Road – accessing the A358 again at the Staplegrove Inn mini roundabout and the junction of Greenway road.
Please note that we will not allow completion of these works until the above temporary one way order is in place. We expect that the signage will take most of tomorrow to arrange therefore this traffic management is expected to be in place after 09:30 Wednesday 19th February 2014.
Again I apologise for these delays, hopefully these further measures will minimise as much as possible further traffic disruption.”
Please keep me posted with any further problems. Yours, Mike.