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Reflections 2013: My first year in charge of Lincolnshire’s roads

It was about 2am on Friday 3rd May that my year really started taking shape. I’d just been re-elected to the County Council. Just a few weeks later I was given the responsibility for looking after Lincolnshire’s roads, and now, nearly a year on, I can look back on a year with plenty of highs (although probably not as many as Nigella), and my fair share of lows too (also, probably not as many as Nigella).

I’ve always thought that roads are the most important service the County Council provides. Without them we can’t do anything. And I really wanted the job of running them.

When I first started the absolute priority for me was to tackle potholes. We’d had two bitter winters which had torn our roads apart. We received more than 2,500 pothole reports in our customer services in January alone.

We couldn’t continue doing what we’d done in the past – just temporarily filling it to make it safe. No, instead I wanted permanent fixes, the first time around.

To enable us to do this we invested in better technology and set new service standards for our potholing gangs. It’s been a busy summer and we’ve filled in 50,000 potholes over the last few months. Not temporary patches – permanent repairs.

The result has been positive; our customer services team had 681 reported in November, a drop of nearly 2,000 compared to January. The job’s by no means done, but I think we’ve made a decent start.

The other big task was overseeing and driving (no pun intended) investment in our highway network. We have the 4th longest network in the country, and there are a lot of conflicting demands on it – not just in Lincoln but across the whole county.

There are many emerging challenges for Lincoln, the chief one being that city-centre congestion is restricting growth. But the next two years are Lincoln’s years.

The major projects that are taking place; the Eastern Bypass; the East-West Link Road; and the two level crossing footbridges are a huge step forward in the city’s evolution. They will help to alleviate the traffic problems, and provide new opportunities for business growth.

But this year hasn’t been without progress itself either, and the major work we’ve done at Newark Road is now complete. It was a tough time for people who regularly use the road – the traffic, as you know, was terrible.

Unfortunately the road was already a bottleneck (hence why we did the work), and so working on it was inevitably going to cause more congestion. But now the work’s finished, people have told me that the improvements have made a real difference. Over the next few weeks as we refine the phasing of the traffic lights the situation should become even better.

As my first year in charge of the county’s road network comes to a close, I reflect on it with a degree pride, but still a huge amount of ambition.

I think we’re on track. I think we’re making the right kind of progress – tackling the congestion that’s hampering growth. And I know that the Lincoln that we’ll see in 2015 will be better than the one we live in today.

If you’d like to talk to me about any of the road or transport issues that concern you, I’m always keen to chat.

Follow all the columns from the Reflections 2013 series