Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why Won't the Highways Agency Talk?

Over the last two days, we have tried to entice someone from the Highways Agency on to LBC to tell our listeners what the roads are like in London, Kent, Sussex and Surrey. On Wednesday, this was particularly important as many people were stuck in their cars for hours. They wouldn't put anyone up for James Whale's Drive show, or my show which follows. Yesterday was the same. I then phoned them myself and almost pleaded with them to come on, as drivers would appreciate hearing from the horse's mouth exactly what was happening, rather than just through the normal travel bulletins. Again, no one was prepared to put their head above the parapet and tell several hundred thousand Londoners, many of whom would be in their cars, wondering if they would get to their destination, exactly what was going on.

Today, I shall try again. If Kent Police can come on, if someone from the train companies can come on, why can't the Highways Agency? We pay their salaries and are entitled to hear from them.

Are they ashamed of their performance so far?

Does anyone know how many communications staff the Highways Agency employs? Maybe they are trying to put up a spokesman, but the spokesmen haven't got the balls to face the public. Tonight, we shall find out.


George said...

Oh come on Iain, after 13 years of NuLan spin and disinformation, the Highways Agency know perfectly well that they will get shafted if they're on the radio.
They will be blamed for the mistakes and omissions that their previous political masters made and which they conspired with.

An agency? isn't that really a Gov Dept? useless, sack the lot of 'em.

Tim said...

You could try a 'freedom of information' request. By law, they have to reply, although I think you have to ask for factual or statistical information:

Curmudgeon said...

Bear in mind that the Highways Agency only cover the trunk road network, which is not much more than motorways and major dual carriageways. The vast majority of roads are the responsibility of local councils.

Wallenstein said...

Really? Because they are paid by the tax payer they are required to appear on a commercial radio station as and when you command?

How arrogant!

Twig said...

Give 'em a break, they probably got stuck in the snow!

Iain Dale said...

You really are an idiot if that is your genuine view. They are there to provide a public service, and appearing on the media to inform them of what they are doing is part of it. If you can't see that you're even thicker than you appear.

killemallletgodsortemout said...


Try Essex County Council. They are quoted in the local paper, and seem quite willing to put up a spokesman called Norman Hume.

Might not explain the chaos south of the river, but could shed some light as to why south Essex came to a standstill.

Peter said...

Problem with Freedom of Information is they can take up to 20 working days to respond.
So you'll get the answer around New Year's Eve!!

Clive said...

Easy solution, use the Traffic England website that the Highways Agency operates. It covers routes they're responsible for, and includes interactive maps with information regarding delays, weather conditions, roadworks, incidents, etc. The motorway traffic flow section even lets you look at live views from cctv cameras monitoring the motorways.

Really Iain, they've better things to do than appear on commercial radio. Especially when the information has been out there two or three years at least.

DespairingLiberal said...

Highways Agency do not cover any significant roads in London - the only major route they operate is the M25 and those few miles of the M roads and a few major A roads that cut into London from the M25.

They will also be inundated. Perhaps the sad truth is that LBC matters less than you think. HA and London traffic data is widely available anyway, not least through Google Maps.

I suspect the people you should really be after are TFL and the Mayor.

Michael Fowke said...

They must know that they are useless. Imagine going on a radio show and admitting it!

JuliaM said...

"Might not explain the chaos south of the river, but could shed some light as to why south Essex came to a standstill."

Because the snow did not fall when forecast, which was 'unhelpful' Yes, really!

"I suspect the people you should really be after are TFL and the Mayor."

Or the loons still insisting we need to tackle 'climate change' or we will all fry....

JoeF said...

Same would apply to local councils, as Curmudgeon rightly points out.

Preparation for bad weather in UK is pathetic. Not enough ploughs, gritters etc.

I've been in Poland is bad weather (which there is -20 or 30, not just freezing, and meters of snow, not inches) and they not only have far more equiptment, but they get the army out shoveling, they get prisoners out shoveling (no screams about human rights either), they even carry shovels on trains in case they get stuck (then people volunteer- but would you rather shovel a bit or be stuck for hours?)

Alex said...

The Highways were mostly clear apart from a couple of routes across the Pennines. The roads you are worried about were the local roads which are not managed by the Highways Agency.

longrun2 said...

Boris and Tfl are not responsible for commuter routes from Kent and Sussex into London. Apart from the Tube strike the problem has not been with Tfl but with the Highways Agency, the county councils who are agents for the Highways Agency - and you should chack up how much of the chaos is down to bad instructions given by HA to their agents and how much is due to the agents failing to follow good instructions, Network Rail and the train operating companies. The Rail Regulator should apply a boot to the backside of any TOC that ignored the weather forecast and Iain and LBC can pillory the failures of the public sector because I don't imagine the BBC will do so.

Brian said...

Have you or your researchers contacted these people to ask if they can provide someone from the appropriate Regional Control Centre?

Londonerr said...

Sometimes we need to admit that events are outside of our control. Severe weather, and harrying the Highways Agency and South East Trains to appear on LBC, are some of those events, so just chill.

Matt said...

Some time ago, a magazine I work as news editor on was asked if we would run a story by the Highways Agency.

They quoted someone who was a senior Highways Agency official, so, as is the house style of our magazine, we requested to speak to the person quoted and to have a photograph of said gentleman.

From is reaction, you would think we had put in a request for his first-born child.

"Why did we want to speak to him?" "Why did we want his photograph?"

The eventual message we got back from an embarrassed underling was: "Mr X does not want to get involved."

The Highways Agency were, apparently, upset when we decided to pull the story, but as Mr X "did not want to get involved" we could see no point in running it.

Mr X and his colleagues like the generous salaries they receive from the Highways Agency, but they will not go on your show, Iain, because: "They don't want to get involved."

ulric said...

I am still upset that the highways agency are asking me for over £1000 for the paperwork to run a street party for the royal wedding. Petty bureaucrats!

neil craig said...

To be fair to the highways agency & all other government wotkers reacting inadequately here they are under politician's orders. Foe at least a decade the leadership of all the parties except UKIP & the BNP have told them to base their plans on the assumption that we3 are experiencing catastrophic warming. Imagine how any civil servant who insisted that we spend a few million on snowplows would have been held up to ridicule by the ecofascists of the BBC, Guardian etc. Remenber that more than 99% of MPs voted for a CLimate Change Act (still on the books) will cost us 10s of trillions over the next few years.

Either almost all representatives of the Labour, LudDem, Conservative, Nationalist & Conservative parties are totally dishonest deliberately trying to defraud us if £100,000+ each or we are currently experiencing catastrophic warming & the highways agency have nothing to do.

Either way they are not at the head of the list for criticism.

DespairingLiberal said...

@Longrun2 - I agree with some of your points - LBC does, it is true, cover a wider area than the GLC and it is relevant what happens on the regional trunk routes. We are really seeing two different aspects of the same issue here. The first is the HA's ability to handle PR when under strain. The second is their actual performance at handling the problems. The HA are essentially just a contract-managing house and almost everything they do is subbed down to regional "super-contractors" (the usual suspects like Serco, Tarmac, Mott McDonald etc) - in practice this means they have a small staff at Victoria to deal with MPs and the press and a subbed-out "press office" who repeatedly refer people to the equally useless DfT or else ignore them. The regional super-contractors are "managed" (eg, not managed at all in any meaningful way) from Regional Offices (mentioned above) which are equally slimline and even, in some cases, wait for it - subbed out to super-contractors!

Brian said...

@ulric: don't you mean your local highway authority? There is a difference.

ulric said...

@Brian yes Kent Highways, but apparently they do not have any political oversight in county council i.e. only ministry of transport??
"Under the Road Traffic Regulation Act, Kent Highway Services will arrange for a road closure for
the event. We charge £260 for preparation of the legal notices plus an average charge of £650
for the advertising required. We also charge £120 for assessing the extent of road closures, the
diversionary routes and signing required"