Residents across Sheffield have waited longer for poorer quality road resurfacing after Amey changed their programme to avoid penalties, according to opposition councillors.
Improvements to the city’s highways over 25 years were promised under a £2.2bn Streets Ahead contract between PFI company Amey and Sheffield City Council.
Within the first five years of the contract, which ended in December 2017, all of the worst roads in Sheffield should have been resurfaced to become ‘the best in the country.’
But after a number of disputes with residents and workers, the programme has not fulfilled all initial promises.
Liberal Democrats leader and Ecclesall ward councillor Shaffaq Mohammed said the main problems come down to delays, swapping treatments, poor work and a lack of enforcement by the council.
He said: “When the Streets Ahead project commenced the council promised that the first and last road would get the same standard of improvements by the end of the core investment period.
“It is now clear that the Labour run council are rowing back on this promise.”
After losing Aggregate Industries, the contractors resurfacing the roads, over a pay dispute there was a pause in work that lasted months while a new contractor was found.
Delays were also put down to the weather, tree felling protests and the Independent Tree Panel, which was set up to give advice on tree replacement plans.
As a result of the delays, residents and councillors have become increasingly concerned about the quality of work being done and overall value for money.
In 2016 the Telegraph revealed that 16 roads across the city had to be repaired just months after being resurfaced.
Residents have also complained about ‘dangerous’ roads being taken off the programme, ‘shoddy’ and ‘horrific’ work on streets and residents being ‘short-changed’ by downgrades in resurfacing treatment.
There are two main types of road resurfacing: traditional – which involves digging up the road and putting a new surface on and micro asphalt – which is a thinner layer of treatment that goes over the top of the existing road.
Micro asphalt is also cheaper and quicker method that does not last as long.
Coun Mohammed said there are at least five zones in Sheffield that should have been done by December 2017 with traditional surfacing but are now being given micro surfacing well-over initial schedules.
These are Endcliffe, Millhouses, Norton Woodseats, Upperthorpe and Bradway.
He added: “Roads across the city have seen delays and some are now getting a lesser treatment of micro asphalt rather than traditional resurfacing they were promised as the start of the project.
“Residents in these areas will now rightly feel short changed by the council as their local roads will not receive the full resurfacing they were expecting. I do not understand how the city council can justify this by saying ‘roads do not improve over time’.”
Initially, it was believed by some councillors Amey would resurface 100 per cent of the roads in the first five years. They then said they would finish 70 per cent in that time period.
Nick Hetherington, network asset manager at Amey, has since confirmed they have only done 65 per cent to date.
The contract states there are penalties each time Amey or the council fail to meet a target, and that the council pay Amey each time they hit a target.
The exact cost or details of the penalties have been redacted due to ‘commercial sensitivity’.
But there are concerns the council are not enforcing the standards agreed in the contract.
Green Party Coun Douglas Johnson, City ward, said: “It’s an odd situation where the council has an incentive, politically, not to enforce the standards that it’s there to do on behalf of the city.
“If Amey take roads off the list, they will need the council’s agreement – and the council ought to be making sure they keep the roads on the list – but if the council does that it makes it look as though the council has not achieved getting the work done in the time it said it should have done.
“Whereas if it takes them off the list it can say ‘all the roads that should’ve been done, have been done’. But they have just moved the goal posts as they have gone along.”
One change upset a large number of residents on Riverdale Road, Endcliffe, when it was taken off the list.
People living on the street were looking forward to much needed improvements to the ‘dangerously’ pot-hole ridden surface and were shocked to find it taken off the list completely.
After raising concerns, representatives from Amey visited residents to explain and, once seeing the severity of the road for themselves, committed to re-adding it to next year’s programme.
Coun Johnson said one of Sheffield’s busiest roads, Orchard Street, in the City Centre, was also due resurfacing but has been left out of the programme.
He said: “The roads that need resurfacing the most are the ones that are really heavily used but therefore, it’s much more difficult for them to resurface them.”
Mr Hetherington denied the team being behind schedule but admitted to changing their programme to meet targets.
He said: “During the summer of 2017 there was a short break in our road resurfacing programme due to us appointing a new resurfacing contractor, Tarmac Ltd.
“As a result, we had to make some last minute changes to the previously advertised programme at that time.
“The contractual resurfacing targets for the Core Investment Period, that ended in December 2017, were all achieved.”
But Coun Douglas said: “It’s a really unsatisfactory situation but that’s what happens when you hand things out to a contract: if the target is to just do a certain number of roads, they are going to do the other roads if it’s easier to do to meet targets.
“And all the way along it does seem as though the work is being done by people who don’t really care about doing a good job. But unfortunately, we are paying a very high price and not getting that much of a service.”
But Amey insist the programme is “perfectly on target” and say any roads getting a shorter term treatment now will get a better treatment later.
Darren Butt, Streets Ahead contract manager, said: “We are concerned with resurfacing and maintaining it for the remaining years of the contract – it would be very short-sighted of us to put the wrong treatment down now then have to do further treatments later or earlier. So we are always making sure it is the right solution for the right road.
“The key thing to remember is you can’t put a micro-surface onto a micro-surface. You may not get the traditional treatment today but you will get them next time round, and we have another 19 years to go so people will see us again.”
He added: “Overall the programme is going very well. All the resources and suppliers are doing a fantastic job and we are perfectly on target.
“But as you can imagine, with the volume of people there are around the network there is always going to be changes to programme and occasions where, unfortunately, we will need to apologise to residents where we don’t meet the dates we advertise and some things might move.”
Coun Lewis Dagnall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for environment and streetscene, said last year the National Highways and Transportation survey showed satisfaction with the roads had doubled in the past decade, which he put down to Streets Ahead.
He added: “The Streets Ahead contract will see a long-term investment in the city’s infrastructure and includes large amounts of resurfacing work on both roads and pavements across Sheffield.
“To ensure roads and pavements remain at a good standard, we continually monitor their condition and plan work accordingly.
“Due to the size and nature of the programme, there are often unavoidable changes to the proposed schedule which can be affected by weather, changing contractors and utility works.
“Amey make every effort to communicate with affected residents both ahead of work and in the case of changes to the schedule.
“This process is managed by the council’s contract management team and financial adjustments can be applied when sufficient notice of any changes is not given.”