Call for water leak contractors to be banned from Upper Dales after road closure “fiasco”

Lorries queuing to get through Hawes.

A councillor has called for two companies contracting by Yorkshire Water to handle leaks to be banned from repairs in the Upper Dales following a road closure “fiasco” this week.

Diversions were put in place on Tuesday after a leak was discovered in The Holme, in Hawes.

The road was closed to allow for the work to take place, however motorists from the west only learnt of the closure when they drove into the market place.

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This meant the town was clogged with vehicles, including large lorries, trying to turn around while the weekly market was taking place.

The closure stayed in place throughout the day until 7pm.

The incident has been described as a “fiasco” by Upper Dales county councillor John Blackie who said that as well as placing inadequate signage, he understood the road could have been reopened two hours earlier.

Cllr Blackie said he received dozens of phone calls from residents and businesses in the town who had been affected, including farmers who had been stuck in traffic and missed their slot to sell their sheep at Hawes Auction Mart.

The councillor said the incident was just the latest in a sequence of problems caused in the Upper Dales by contractors Morrison Utility Services and Express Traffic Management which are used by Yorkshire Water to fix leaks and close roads.

He has called on the county council to ban the two contractors from carrying out further work in the area.

He said: “Most of the complaints I received were about the totally inadequate signage of the road closure which meant all traffic had to reach the road closure in the centre of the market place in Hawes, only to find out the road was closed and then had to turn round.

“This was impossible for large lorries so several became trapped in the market place and beyond for a while until some parked cars were moved so they could turn around.”

He added: “It completely spoilt the street market in Hawes with conflicts between queuing and reversing traffic competing with pedestrians strolling along the front of the market stalls.

“I ask that NYCC Highways specify that Morrisons and Express are not used as contractors here in the Upper Dales.

“We have no confidence in them, no trust in them, and they cause far more problems than they solve.”

In his response, Dave Bowe, North Yorkshire County Council corporate director, said he would check but suspected the council did not have powers to ban the contractors from the area unless they lost their operating licence.

He added: “It is purely a matter that we have to take up with the utility directly.

“Of course that may result in Yorkshire Water reviewing their contract with the two companies.”

Joe Hands, from Yorkshire Water, said: “We were made aware of a burst pipe in Hawes with a team sent to the site as quickly as possible.

“Due to the size of the burst, we had to implement traffic management to close the road for health and safety reasons.

“The pipe has been repaired and the road was reopened last night.

“We’re very sorry for the inconvenience and disruption this has caused local residents in Hawes and I want to assure them that we will be reviewing our response to make sure we take on board feedback we have received from the local community.”

1 Comment

  1. As a resident and business owner in The Holme, Hawes, I must disagree with the comments written in this article by Councillor Blackie. As far as I am a where, I was the only business directly affected, (the leak was right outside my business) and it was me who reported the leak, as it happened on Monday morning. While I was onto Yorkshire Water emergency line, this is when the road surface broke up, creating a dangerous situation for vehicles, coming down The Holme. I was asked if I thought it was an emergency, to which I replied it was and was informed that some body would be on site within 2 hours. The person arrived on site after only 30 minutes. During this time, a few residents were slowing drivers down to avoid them having accidents as the road broke up and cones were placed to assist with this. While awaiting permission to shut the road, the contractors helped guide lorries passed the worst of the damaged road. During the afternoon, the water main was repaired and the contractor advised me when asked, that the water would not be turned off.
    On Tuesday morning I asked the contractor on site at 07:30 what their intentions were for the day and was informed that the road surface would be removed, a new one put down and the road should re-open at about 19:00. This meant that my business would remain closed for that day also. The contractors were very pleasant and apologised for the inconvenience it caused. The road re-opened at 19:15, only 15 minutes after the time I was given at 07:30. At no time did I see Councillor Blackie on either the Monday or Tuesday. He did not visit my business to ask for my view on the contractors, or any body else their view. Local farmers going to the market would all know the way a round and the large lorries would not be able to go over the local bridges for local diversions so perhaps Highways should have been consulted. I believe that Councillor Blackie, should talk to the people this directly affected, before he starts appropriating blame on people who did a good job in getting the road repaired and re-opened within 36 hours.

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