Work has continued today on removing the last of the remaining deck material from the two cantilevers. Once all the material has been removed from the decks, the surface will be inspected for any damage and repairs carried out in readiness for the waterproofing to be carried out. This process is going well and VolkerLaser remain on schedule to begin the waterproofing next week.
During the past few days there have been a small number of breakdowns and accidents on both the approach roads to the bridge and the bridge itself which have caused a build up of traffic and delays to drivers. We are working hard with our partners to manage traffic flows on the bridge during the resurfacing works and are very sorry for the inconvenience caused by delays.
Following some confusion over who is responsible for managing such incidents we thought it would be helpful to explain what happens in these situations.
Like all other suspension bridges, the Tamar Bridge is subject to vehicle breakdowns, abnormal load crossings, police incidents, emergency service priority route requests and environmental impacts such as high wind events.
Vehicle breakdowns and accidents also take place on the roads leading to the bridge, including the A38.
Detailed plans, developed in partnership with Highways England, the police and Cornwall, Plymouth and Devon Councils, are in place to ensure that any incidents are managed in a safe way and the affected lane or road re-opened to traffic as quickly as possible.
Dealing with breakdowns on the bridge itself is the responsibility of Tamar Crossings. We have a number of light and heavy recovery vehicles on constant standby to cater for break downs and aim to have vehicles removed and the lane re-opened as quickly as possible.
In the case of an accident on the bridge, however, we have to wait for the police to attend the scene and, after investigating the incident, to arrange for the recovery of the vehicle.
Yesterday afternoon’s traffic build up on the bridge was the result of an accident involving two vehicles which was attended by the police. Damage to one of the vehicles meant that the police had to call in a specialist recovery vehicle to remove it, which caused some additional delays to re-opening the lane.
We understand the frustration that the delays caused to people using the bridge and, as soon as the vehicle had been removed, changed the lane priorities to clear the queues.
Managing accidents and incidents which take place on the approaches to the bridge (such as the A38) is the responsibility of Highways England and the police if needed. This means they are responsible for arranging for a broken down or damaged vehicle to be recovered and then re-opening the road.
This was the case last week when a vehicle broke down on the A38 westbound prior to the bridge. Although the vehicle was not on the bridge, the breakdown restricted the approach to the bridge, causing delays to traffic coming into Cornwall.
While we do everything we can to assist in these cases, we need to wait for Highways England to deal with the incident and re-open the road before we can start changing lane priorities to clear the backlog of traffic.
In this case as soon as the road had been re-opened by Highways England, we changed the lane priorities on the bridge to help clear the backlog.
During an incident that affects the road network we work closely with Highways England’s Regional Operational Control Centre in Bristol, informing them of delays and sharing information. This enables messages about potential delays to be shown at key junctions. We also work together to provide information about congestion via the media, social media and our websites as required.
One of the effects of the Covid pandemic during the past eighteen months has been on traffic behaviour and the times people travel. This has led to a shift in “peak times” to a more dynamic pattern with no identifiable regularity. This change in behaviour has created additional challenges for our control centre staff, who now carry out multiple lane changes during a day to reflect the shifting demand in priorities.
While there has been some return to more usual travel patterns during the past few weeks, and an increase in the amount of traffic using the bridge, the levels are still below pre pandemic levels.
As explained in yesterday’s update we are working with Highways England and Cornwall Council to investigate potential options to mitigate the impact of the resurfacing works on Saltash.
We are continuing to encourage eastbound drivers to use the A38 rather than the Saltash off slip east bound as a short cut to help reduce queuing traffic in North road and access to Fore street. We are monitoring the trial closely and are also investigating the use of additional variable message signs and other measures.