Crisis talks after burst pipe traffic chaos

Editorial image
Editorial image

A county council is talking tough with roadworks contractors after a gas emergency shut down a major through road in the rush hour.

Bucks County Council has halted work in the area after workmen ruptured a gas main and water pipes on the A421 Buckingham bypass on Monday.

The works are being carried out by Aggregate Industries on behalf of the consortium of developers building the new 700-home Windsor Park estate.

On Monday afternoon, workmen damaged a storm drain and foul sewer.

Then, a couple of hours later, they ruptured a gas main, leading to police closing the bypass from the Total roundabout to the Osier Way junction during the evening rush hour.

The smell of gas filled the air, queues along the bypass went on for miles, and traffic backed up the length of London Road as cars diverted through Buckingham.

Engineers from Anglian Water and gas distribution network company SGN worked overnight to carry out emergency repairs.

Lime Avenue resident John Harris said: “Just when we thought the hold-ups and general chaos caused by the roadworks could not get any worse, we are proven wrong.

“You couldn’t make it up if you tried.”

An Aris Way resident, who did not want to be named, said: “These roadworks are starting to become a complete joke.”

County councillor for Buckingham Robin Stuchbury, who walked to the site of the gas leak from his home in Hare Close, said: “I could feel the air blowing out of the ground.

“As I walked up there, the smell was potent.”

The county council has called a halt to roadworks in the area of the services until it has seen and approved a risk assessment and a plan of works.

The developers are meeting with highways officers and county councillors next Friday to discuss complaints and agree a way forward.

Mr Stuchbury said: “I’ve got to the point where I’ve begun to wonder if the contractors are up to the job.

“They hit the foul sewer earlier in the day and did a temporary repair on that.

“And then they went and hit the gas main.

“They’ve been given every definitive map, they’ve had every bit of information about where the services are before they started working.

“Thank God nobody was killed. Something terrible could have happened.”

Mr Stuchbury said: “The simple fact is, Bucks County Council has done everything it can to get these roadworks working.

“The county council is not paying for these works. They’re being paid for by the developers.

“Since the government deregulated roadworks in the 1980s, developers are perfectly entitled to put their own contractors on the highways.

“In the good old days, it would all have been done under Bucks County Council with a county council site manager in charge up there, but it doesn’t work like that now.

“I can’t apologise enough for the stress it’s caused people but I’ve got no authority over it.

“I think the developers should come forward and apologise to the people of Buckingham.

“They are taking all the profit and Buckingham is taking all the pain.”

A spokesperson for Aggregate Industries said: “We have worked hard to resolve this issue as rapidly as possible and sympathise with local residents caught up in the delays.

“An investigation into the cause of the incident is ongoing.”

Technical director of Barratt Homes Northampton, Mike Bury, said:“As part of the Section 106 agreement for the Windsor Park development, we have appointed Aggregate Industries to carry out the improvement works to London Road on behalf of the consortium BDW and Bovis Homes.

“The works, which involve widening the road and introducing traffic control measures to the roundabout, have been approved and are being inspected by Buckingham County Council.

“We are working closely with the council to expedite the project and we are sorry that the works have been delayed. This is due to unforeseen technical difficulties and service diversions that have taken longer than expected and we are making every effort to complete the works as soon as possible.”