Dear Tony, Paul and Martin,

Thank you for your emails.

First of all, I think it may be worth clarifying the Council’s position in terms of these roadworks and what degree of influence I actually have.

As previously highlighted, the partnership with the Dorset LEP dictates that Bournemouth Council is leading on the coordination of the schemes along the A338, in terms of providing a senior responsible officer, and the communications strategy for the works.

The roadworks themselves and their management are an integral part of the BIG Programme funded by the Dorset LEP and delivered by Dorset County Council.

Therefore, my influence in this matter is limited. I am pleased that you appreciate the long term benefit to Bournemouth and the surrounding area that the BIG Programme will bring.

It is for this very reason that Bournemouth Council is supporting the programme and we are doing all that we can to ensure it is delivered as efficiently as possible to reduce the impact on the town.

The provision of an additional lane and resurfacing of the carriageway on the A338 southbound from Blackwater Junction will be a huge benefit in the longer term, both in terms of traffic flow and economic benefit of opening up land for development.

I have asked for an update from our Officers involved in the coordination of these schemes which include the improvements to Blackwater Junction, the widening and additional lane on the A338 from there to Cooper Dean and the access to Wessex Fields, pending planning permission.

I have been assured that the project team, working with the contractor, are doing everything they can to reduce the impact on traffic coming into the town.

However, I have been made aware that there have been a number of incidents in the past week on adjacent networks that haven’t helped the situation.

For example on Saturday, when you reported experiencing delays, we are aware that there was a police incident and a lane closure away from the B3073 along Fairmile towards Christchurch.

Apart from these incidents, I am told that the delays are easing and the network is settling down as we move into the next phase.

There will always be some delays and these tend to be worse in the morning peak, travelling south.

At other times the delays we are seeing are generally minimal. I am updated on a daily basis by my PA who travels at peak times along the A338 from Ashley Heath to Bournemouth.

These schemes are very different to the previous roadworks on the A338 and involve working on the bridges adjacent to Blackwater Junction which obviously adds to the constraints of the works.

The area in which the works are being undertaken within the central reservation area is very constrained and therefore does not allow for a significant number of workers to be there at any one time.

Complex repairs are required to the two bridges that carry the northbound and southbound carriageways over the River Stour.

These effectively need to be joined together as there is currently a gap. This is one element of the widening works and has to be undertaken during daylight hours.

From the beginning of this week, there has also been a nightshift, which entails the construction of the new embankment adjacent to the southbound carriageway within the verge.

The project team continue to look for ways of reducing the impact of the programme wherever possible.

For example, they are currently looking at the option of increasing night time works on the northbound carriageway during this first phase to reduce the length of time needed for a contra-flow system in future phases.

Every endeavour is being made to ensure that the works are completed as efficiently as possible, but due to the complexities of the bridge works in particular, this cannot be rushed.

The steel barriers are now in place to enable Phase 1 of the works to start, and this phase will be completed in mid-November ahead of Phase 2.

The steel barriers are in place to protect the workforce. During the upcoming phases, the traffic management will be altered which will allow an early diverge from the A338 onto Blackwater Junction which will assist with the length of the queues.

We can provide a presentation that has been given to stakeholders explaining this in further detail.

The roadworks were programmed to start after the summer and the Air Festival, when the traffic flows are higher for a number of months.

The lowest traffic flows occur between November and January. As the works are scheduled for 9 months it is impossible to avoid some disruption through seasonal activities.

Traditionally for highway schemes, these would normally only be suspended for a two week period across December/January when workers take their Christmas break.

When Officers discussed this in May in consultation with the Bournemouth and Poole Tourism Management Board, concern was raised about the length of the Christmas break.

The project team have ensured that works can be phased in such a way as to remove the traffic management from 10 December until 7 January, a four week period, without impact on the end date of the programme.

This is above and beyond what would normally be agreed and what was undertaken on the previous A338 works.

In addition, the second phase of works which are programmed to begin in mid November, will see a change to the current traffic management layout which will reduce the length of delays further.

In relation to the advice which has been given suggesting alternative routes, public transport, car sharing, working from home, or readjusting travel times, this is aimed at those who can reasonably undertake such changes as it is appreciated that there are also many who cannot.

However, even if just 10% of the travelling public are able to make some change during the peak hours, this is shown to have a significant effect in terms of the reduction in the delays.

Therefore, those who do have to remain on the route during that time, will have reduced queuing times as a result.

Whilst I will do all that I can to influence the way these works are delivered, there is only so much that I can actually do which will make a material difference.

However, I have taken the opportunity to discuss this again with Officers, particularly the suggestion of suspending works until after the Christmas break.

It has been made clear to me that any suspension of this nature will have a serious impact on the overall works programme. Due to the level of traffic flow increase after June, this would result in wide scale and prolonged traffic disruption far in excess of current levels, and cause severe detriment to our retail, tourism and hospitality sectors throughout much of the summer season.

There would also be a financial cost to doing this, as it would be a material variation to the contract for which there is no financial provision. Such variations would need to be funded and would not be included as contingency costs.

In conclusion, I would welcome our collective energy being put into promoting a more positive message about how Bournemouth is open for business over the coming months.

This together with promoting an appeal to visitors to avoid peak periods means that it should be possible to manage the length of delays to become minimal.

As well as the retail offer, surely we need to be promoting the fact that there is so much for people to do and see in Bournemouth during the festive break.

If we allow the roadworks and current delays at peak times to become embedded in peoples’ minds, the impact on retail and our Christmas offer will become a self-fulfilling prophesy.

Together we can avoid this becoming the outcome, and work together to ensure a bumper Christmas season for our local economy.

Regards, John Beesley