All hands on the highway deck in Sheffield

 

Contractor Amey provides highway maintenance services to Sheffield City Council through the £2bn ‘Streets Ahead’ PFI contract and when rain and floods hit South Yorkshire early in November, its workers were on the front line.

Transport Network gets a briefing from Darren Butt, Amey’s Streets Ahead account director, on how the contractor and the community fought the floods.

Tell us about the work you did before the rain hit to mitigate the impact of possible flooding.

We rely on the Environment Agency’s weather and flood warning system to inform us of the likelihood of local flooding. As soon as we get an alert of rainfall likely to have an impact on our communities, a range of proactive and preventative works begin for Streets Ahead.

Our work includes actively inspecting known priority sites across the highway network. The areas worst affected tend to be low points where water pools, although these can usually be kept clear by making sure gullies are cleaned in advance and that discharge points, such as sewers and other culverts or water courses, are clear.

We also manage and tailor shift patterns to ensure adequate resources are available during adverse weather events.

This preparation work took place in advance of the heavy rain, which hit South Yorkshire on 7 November.

Environment department Defra had recently recognised that streets in the city were clean and relatively litter free. To what extent did this help?

We have invested extensively in reducing litter levels in local hotspots and making our cleaning regimes effective and efficient as part of the Streets Ahead programme. The recognition from Defra was testament to the hard work and proactive approach we have adapted to street cleaning since the start of the programme.

What sort of work did you do to manage the flooding when the rain fell and the river levels rose?

Between 7 and 8 November, Sheffield experienced a deluge of wet weather, with over 64mm of rainfall. As river levels rose we remained in close contact with agencies across South Yorkshire, taking part in emergency co-ordination calls including the Environment Agency, emergency services and other council services.

When the parameters were met, we closed the flood gates on Sheffield’s new flood defence system.

The new Lower Don Flood Defence system is activated, when needed, by Amey as part of its contract with Sheffield City Council. This is done as soon as predictions come in via weather warning systems.

The response involves checking and closing flood gates, along with several non-return valves to reduce the risk of high river levels infiltrating drains and causing flooding.

As the heavy rain continued, we continued to monitor the city’s 50 or so highway flooding hotspots by visiting sites as well as monitoring them by CCTV, where it was available.

By the afternoon, it was becoming clear that problems were going to continue into the night and so we pulled in extra resources to cope with increasing demand.

We had extra support from our subcontractors and suppliers, plus staff in other areas stayed on to take calls and keep people updated on social media. Other operational teams were also drafted in to proactively patrol the city with shovels, removing blockages from gullies wherever they found them.

As the situation worsened, sand bags were issued to a number of sites and affected properties. Further assistance was provided to clear any blockages to river channels and remove debris from entry grills to culverts.

What was it like at its worst?

A number of major roads became impassable, including Meadowhall Road, near the shopping centre. In total around 30 roads had to be closed and diversions put in place.

There was some localised flooding, and a number of residents calling us requesting assistance. We took over 1,100 calls during the flood period.

There was a 24-hour intense period from Thursday morning where staff worked continuously.

We also had one of our engineers in Sheffield City Council’s urban traffic control centre, from where traffic flows are monitored and adjusted remotely in response to live conditions.

Some traffic signals were affected by the flooding but by re-organising signal timings and keeping people updated, the road system was able to manage.

To ensure resources were deployed to the worst affected sites a triage process was introduced with health and safety issues and flooding to residential properties being prioritised.

When and why did you begin to believe that the worst had passed?

At around midnight, information was starting to come through from the Environment Agency that the river levels were peaking and we started to see them dropping by about 2am on Friday 8 November. However, the clean-up operation was still underway and we still had lots of work to do to get all roads moving safely again.

What was the clear-up process like?

Our clean-up efforts involved pumping water out of low spots, cleaning gullies and sweeping roads plus clearing silt off major roads.

After the flood water started to subside, we set to work and channelled resources to where they were most needed to make sure roads were safe and passable ahead of frosts on the Friday night.

There was also the possibility of further significant rain for the following week, which we were proactively preparing for.

We had upped our resources for the clean-up work, which took place over the two days of torrential rain and into the following week, to ensure the city was in a good position ahead of further predicted wet weather.

We estimate that only around 1% of the city’s road network was affected by the flooding on this occasion, so the preventative work with the flood defences and high input of resource over the core 24-hour period did manage to keep the network moving fairly well.

As a result, we were also able to give mutual aid to other agencies where we could, for example to the council and the Environment Agency in Ecclesfield, where a stream had overtopped.

What did you learn for next time?

In terms of our response, we believe it was effective and worked as planned. The city’s new £20m flood defences, which were completed in early 2018, certainly had an impact on preventing the majority of homes, businesses and roads from flooding extensively.

We did see some localised flooding but the impact was considerably less than what the city experienced in previous flooding events. Prior to the Streets Ahead contract, which started in 2012, there was a major flood event in Sheffield in 2007 and the inner city and the Lower Don Valley area really struggled. Fortunately, that didn’t happen this time.

The value of our 24-hour social media to our emergency response cannot be underestimated.

Our Twitter account @SCCStreetsAhead was a trusted and reliable source of information for many people attracting almost 2,000 new followers over the course of the flooding event, while interactions (likes and retweets) increased from an average of 9 in the days preceding and after the event to more than 500 during its height on both 7 and 8 November.

What was the impact on your staff and how did you look after yourselves?

From the time the weather warnings were received, right through to the clean-up efforts, our staff worked relentlessly to mitigate the risk of flooding.

However, we made sure our operatives were well supported throughout this time, ensuring they took regular breaks, where needed, and handed over to colleagues appropriately when shifts ended.

Fortunately, the most intense period of rainfall was fairly short-lived and we were able to recover quickly as a result.

Register now for full access


Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
highways jobs

Key Route Network Manager

Liverpool City Region
£63,753 - £71,747
An exciting new opportunity has arisen within the Integrated Transport Directorate of the LCR Combined Authority Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Region

Development Management Engineer

North Yorkshire County Council
£24,313 to £34,788
An excellent candidate is required to prove to have the desire and ambition to progress and develop into an exciting career, and... North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Part Time Community Rail Partnership Officer

Essex County Council
£24000 - £26275 per annum + Plus Excellent Benefits Package
Please note that this position is being offer on a part time basis, covering 23 hours per week. Working Pattern TBC. England, Essex, Rochford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Development Management Engineer

North Yorkshire County Council
£24,313 to £34,788
To be successful you must... Northallerton, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: North Yorkshire County Council

Environmental Health Officer and Grad EHO – Private Sector Housing with benefits* x 2

Camden London Borough Council
£33,122 - £42,490
We have an exciting opportunity for two organised and enthusiastic Environment Health Officers  or a qualified graduate working towards their... Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Ugobus Driver x 7 positions

Essex County Council
Up to £18938.0 per annum
Please note that this is a 6 month fixed term contract on a part time basis. Working hours will be discussed at interview. The salary is up to £18,938 England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Highways Engineer

Rutland County Council
£29,636 - £31,371 per annum
Do you enjoy getting outdoors in the course of your work? Rutland
Recuriter: Rutland County Council

Senior Highways Manager

Rutland County Council
£47,544 to £51,138
This is the lead role for our Highways service with a remit to... Rutland
Recuriter: Rutland County Council

Road Safety Assistant (Cycling)

London Borough of Bexley
£13,947.32 - £14,713.97, per annum
You will be an enthusiastic individual who can effectively communicate with children and adults. Bexleyheath, London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Bexley

Medium/Heavy Vehicle Mechanic - January 2020

North West Leicestershire District Council
You could earn up to £28,785 + 0.75 hours per week plain time overtime
Tasks will include preparation for DVSA annual examination, servicing, general and defect generated repairs, fault finding including diagnostic tests. Coalville, Leicestershire
Recuriter: North West Leicestershire District Council

Senior Engineer (Co-ordinator) - 2 jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£22,462 - £29,636 + £2000 Market Rate Supplement
The role is in the Highway Network Management & Co-ordination (HNMC) Team, which is part of Operational Services. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Surface Water Engineer

Essex County Council
£30001.0 - £35350 per annum
At Essex County Council, we're passionate about helping deliver economic growth, the best starts in life and the chance to age well for people in the England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recuriter: Essex County Council

Highways Operations Manager

Swindon Borough Council
Salary up to £41,494 p.a.
In this key role, you will plan, organise, co-ordinate and control the workforce Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Director Neighbourhood & Enforcement

Telford & Wrekin Council
Cicra 89k
Telford and Wrekin is a great place to live, work, visit and do business. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Senior Engineer (Highways Maintenance Design)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£22,462 - £29,636
Are you looking for an opportunity to work as a Senior Engineer, whilst still being able to develop your career and have a good work-life balance? Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways Projects Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£33,153 - £35,755
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire and... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Lead Practitioner (Infrastructure)

Newark & Sherwood District Council
£33,799 to £35,934 per annum
Newark and Sherwood is looking to recruit to its newly created post of Lead Practitioner for Infrastructure. Newark, Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: Newark & Sherwood District Council

Senior Parking Manager

Brent Council
£55,638 - £58,779 p.a. inc.
As Senior Parking Manager, you will be responsible for the effective management of the Council’s Parking Services contract Brentford (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

School Crossing Patrol

Brent Council
£21,591 - £22,377 p.a. inc. pro rata. (£11.50 per hour)
A school crossing patrol officer is responsible for assisting children to cross the road safely on their way to and from school. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Engineering Team Leader

Telford & Wrekin Council
£39,782 - £42,683
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Network Management Team Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council