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Agenda item

Revised "Rotherham MBC Code of Practice for Highway Inspection and Assessment"


The Chair introduced Councillor Hoddinott, Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety, who presented the report proposing a revised “Rotherham MBC Code of Practice for Highway Inspection and Assessment”, including policies for both Highway Safety Inspection and Skidding Resistance.


The revised “Rotherham MBC Code of Practice for Highway Inspection and Assessment” took account of recommendations within a report commissioned by the Department for Transport named “Well-managed Highway Infrastructure” (A Code of Practice). This new code will replace “Well-maintained Highways”, “Management of Highway Structures” and “Well-lit Highways” in October 2018.


The new code significantly changed from the reliance on specific guidance and recommendations to a risk-based approach to highway asset management.  The purpose of a risk based approach for highway safety inspections was to determine the scale of the risk presented by a highway defect in order to prioritise the appropriate category of response.


The introduction of a risk-based approach to highway inspection moved away from a highway inspection system based on specific defect intervention/repair levels and replaced it with a system that required risk assessment to determine the need for repair works. Therefore, the proposed “Rotherham MBC Code of Practice for Highway Inspection and Assessment” had been developed taking into account the change in national guidance.


Councillor Hoddinott invited Colin Knight and Andrew Rowley to give a presentation on the Revised Code of Practice for Highway Inspection and Assessment.


The presentation drew attention to:-


·                Rotherham MBC Road Network.

·                Guidance  and the programme of highway maintenance.

·                The existing Code of practice for highway inspection and assessment.

·                National Guidance - ‘Well-maintained Highways 2005.

·                The New National Guidance - ‘Well-managed Highways Infrastructure’.

·                Highway Inspection Policy and its Objectives.

·                Developing a Revised Code for Rotherham.

·                Determining Frequency of Inspections for Carriageways and Footways.

·                Minimum Investigatory Levels.

·                Defect Identification and Evaluation - Risk Based Approach.

·                Highway Defect Risk Matrix.

·                Response Times/Repair Types.

·                Defect Categories.

·                Skidding Resistance Policy.

·                Guidance and Training for Officers.


A question and answer session ensued and the following were raised and clarified:-


·                If there was any methodology with regards the location and benefits of trees and with the management of the root action close to highways and footways.


Whilst the primary objective was to keep the tree safe as it grew within the community it was important to liaise with the Tree Section to maintain the safe passage on highways and footways.  The Cabinet Member was briefed on the trees in the Borough and additional funding to address condition of the footpaths had been secured.   Work to look at tree lined routes within Rotherham would take place in the longer term.


The Cabinet Member for Waste, Roads and Community Safety confirmed there were no plans for tree removal.  Each area was different and concerns and risks would be assessed and mitigated as and when they arose.


·                The Highways Section was commended for the work it undertook across the Borough and the work it did on the pavements in the town and districts.  Page 13 of the report referred to implications for other partners and it was asked if there were any collaborative partnership work with the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive where bus routes were changed on to routes that were less suited to vehicles resulting in damage to kerbs that required replacing.


All bus routes were determined by the South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive and operators and, as long as there was no damage to highway, Rotherham was supportive of the usage.  If there was a problem liaison would take place and this would involve the Ward Member.


·                Had there been any consideration of fitting electronic survey devices to waste collection vehicles which could then download data to a central database. 


Electronic surveys undertaken were different to those that could be undertaken by a waste refuse vehicle.  However, pathways were also being considered and being looked into further.


·                Were there any plans to look into in-house resurfacing teams to be reactive to potholes and increase general resurfacing of complete roads.


Additional highway works were all carried out by the Council’s own Highway Teams.  The Teams had been invested into through the development of the apprenticeship programme which included a mixture of college attendance and onsite practical experience. From those that had completed the course the Council had successfully appointed to positions and wherever possible utilised within the Highways Team.


·                Had there been any assessment of impact or cost implications through changes within the Policy.


This was to be monitored.  There was no huge change from the existing code of practice based on rigid guidance.  There was some discretion to carry out repairs with no fundamental change in the numbers.


·                Evaluation of highway safety and consideration of demographics and population in certain areas and whether it was cost effective to wait until a pothole worsened and it got bigger.


Defects in the highway were assessed against investigatory level depth in line with specifications, intervention levels and sizes.  A large section of potholes were inspected post-repair to gauge the lifespan of the pothole.  This work was undertaken by the Highway Supervisor and in 95% of all cases the repair was still successful.  Work did take place to identify works areas that were starting to develop before they turned into potholes.


Whilst consideration was given to defects within certain populated areas, there was no consideration of an individual’s circumstances.


·                Training programme timeframes for Highway Inspectors.


Training timescales were currently being arranged with the provider for all Highway Inspectors to be trained in line with recognised standards before the implementation in October, 2018.


·                How would it be known if the Code had been implemented effectively, when would the implementation be reviewed and were there any major implications to changes to working practices.


Performance management information data was to be collected and analysed on a quarterly basis, which not only included potholes, but insurance claims.  The Code of Practice would also be updated every year in accordance with the Council’s insurers and solicitors.


In terms of the capacity of the Highway Inspectors, this comprehensive role was designed as a single point of contact related to highways within Wards and from a customer perspective.  This would be monitored and discussed on a monthly basis for any workload changes, but no major changes were envisaged.


·                Page 17 detailed how the Code applied to adopted highways, but what justification was there, if any, on any unadopted roads. 


Work on unadopted highways was limited as responsibility lay with who owned the highway frontage.  The Council was happy to provide support, advice and guidance where applicable and would work with Ward Members to keep areas safe.  The Council was under no legal obligation to resurface an unadopted road.


·                Page 29 referred to street lighting routine inspections and clarification was sought if there were any legal timeframes.


This would have to be deferred to the Street Lighting Engineers.


·                Page 30 related to highway drainage and road gullies and clarification was sought on those gullies that were persistently blocked.


There was an inspection regime for maintenance of the 45,300 gullies across the Borough.  Over 90% of the gullies were kept free and working correctly.  There may be occasions when a gully was blocked, but the system was designed for this to be bypassed and for surface water to travel to the next one.  The team were happy to respond to concerns or requests.  The team did struggle to inspect every gully as occasionally they were blocked by a vehicle. 


·                Page 32 detailed a grid of action for verge maintenance and advice was sought on verge overgrowth obstructions and the requirement for road signs to be visible to road users.


Any obstruction of road signs would be inspected and vegetation removed where necessary. 


·                Page 88 referred to the performance management framework and measures, their publication and would this be scrutinised.


Performance management and the sliding scale for the condition of the highway network was monitored quarterly.  More operational type measures relating to potholes, vegetation etc. were published on the Council website along with customer satisfaction surveys.  On the completion of schemes affected residents were written to and notified accordingly.


·                Page 71 detailed when other road safety measures or additional routine maintenance had been identified were relevant departments advised of the performance of other departments and would there be an obligation to respond to those inspections.


Performance management data for highways was published.  It was not known how other Departments published their own data.


·                Page 19 (3.1) referenced unclassified routes and residential state roads when the biggest problem was when rural roads were populated by HGVS.  Was this reported and could any statistics be broken down into Ward areas for any particular issues.


On unclassified routes, as long as vehicles were not damaging the highway nor were there any weight restrictions, then HGVs had a right to use the highway.


Whilst data was not broken down into specific Wards, the team would be happy to sit down and extract some reports that may be relevant.



·                Street signage and the legal requirement for illuminated signs.


There was some legislation related to illumination and clarification would be sought from the Street Lighting Engineer.


·                How do we ensure adopted footways and highways owned by Housing were also inspected and made safe and subject to the same rigid inspections under this Code.


Services were responsible for their own area to ensure footways etc. were safe and in good condition and the responsibility of asset owners.


·                Was there any consideration to upgrading the laser based scanner system to do more surveying to a higher standard for less money.


The scanner was only available for certain mechanical vehicles.  This service was bought in collectively across the region as a joint consortium to minimise cost.  


·                Once information was recorded was it analysed to determine the effectiveness of repair techniques.


There were inspectors in-house looking at defect material and data.  The use of historical information was used to build highway schemes, frequency numbers and condition data.


·                Page 20 referred to highway structures being inspected every 2 years and in principle between 6-12 years and questioned whether this should say months. 


Clarification would be sought from the Structures Team.


·                Page 66 related to highway authorities of South Yorkshire and any roads that crossed over boundaries and whether there was any cost savings from any collaborative work, especially around level crossings.


All Local Authorities consulted with their neighbours, but due to costs involved may not always join up with their work.


In terms of level crossings only the approaches were the responsibility of Highways.  The crossing itself was the responsibility of Network Rail.


The Chair thanked Councillor Hoddinott, Colin Knight and Andrew Rowley for their very informative presentation and suggested that any further questions be forwarded on.


Resolved:-  (1)  That the revised “Rotherham MBC Code of Practice for Highway Inspection and Assessment” (Appendix A) to ensure that the highway is safely maintained, thereby safeguarding users of Rotherham’s highways be supported.


(2)  That performance management data published on the website be shared with the Improving Place Select Commission Members.


(3)  That feedback be provided on the areas requiring further clarification.


(4)  That a further update be provided in due course and for this to incorporate resident satisfactory survey data, identification of any savings and if there were any reduction in accidents.

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