Saturday, July 13, 2024

Thomas’ Blog: “Aveley By-pass and ringing the council…….cul-de-sacs of communication”

Thomas’ Blog

“Below is an email I sent to the cabinet member for highways of Thurrock Council. Is it just me that becomes frustrated and, or am I just being unreasonable in my expectations of our local authorities and the people that they employ to deal with us on a day to day basis and who seem, it appears to me, to be obstructive and as unhelpful as they possibly can be?

Dear Councillor Smith (L) ,

I am a resident of South Ockendon and I have noticed that for the last week or so that the B1335, Aveley By-Pass Road has been closed between the roundabout that separates South Ockendon Stifford Road (B1335) and the roundabout connecting Sandy Lane/Romford Road and Mill Road. The By Pass,as you will probably know is the only road route into the Belhus Park Golf and Country Club, swimming pool etc!

I have a couple of questions for you, if I may, as you appear to be the Cabinet member for Transport and Highways within Thurrock Council. I should first state that I checked Essex County Councils website and then phoned the Highways department to ask my question of them, but after waiting about 15 minutes and then having to spell , phonetically, A V E L E Y to the lady on the other end, as Essex CC ‘s system apparently does not like road numbers ( how can the CC not like road numbers they deal with trunk roads whose main identifier surely is a a road designation number!) and telling her that it was in Thurrock , she did come back informing me that she couldn’t find it, asking, “are you sure it doesn’t have another name, and where about in the county is it?”

I stated, again, that it was in Thurrock and no, to the best of my knowledge it was and always has been the Aveley By-Pass and again (although she / they don’t like them) the road number is B1335. “Oh”, says she, “well that explains it then, if it is in Thurrock it is theirs, they are a Unitary authority you see…..” And she gave me the number for Thurrock Council, bless …. but a lot of good that did me.

While you may not be directly responsible for the telephone system or it’s operators you may like to enquire, on my behalf, as to why Thurrock residents are ignored and treated to such an abomination of a service. Is it an unspoken directive from the ruling party in power that if residents can’t get through and make enquiries/ complaint then we (the Council) can’t register those enquiries/ complaints? It then stands to reason that they will not form part of any figures for comparison on official statistics on such enquiries/ complaints being made, or is it that I am again being far to cynical? Or is it just a question of:

a) poor performance by operators,
b) not enough operators to deal with the quantity of calls
c) not enough departmental employees to deal with the quantity of calls
d) lack of interest by council employees dealing with members of the public’s enquiries/ complaints*

*The last one is based on the fact that when I did get through on the 652 652 number the FIRST time I selected option 3 for Highways. I waited 11 minutes and eventually the call was answered by, it sounded like Tracey, but when I asked the woman to repeat her name (I do like to make a note of the name of the person I am speaking to) the call was cut off!

I called again ignoring all the options and after 7 minutes the call was answered by an operator. I explained that I had previously called, that I had selected option 3 for highways, that eventually the call was answered and that when I asked for confirmation of the name of the person I was speaking to, the call was disconnected! The operator apologised and stated that she would put me through, that she understood all departments were experiencing heavy call volumes (See, b), c) and d) above !) but that she would remain on the line until my call was answered.

You’ve guessed what’s coming now haven’t you? Yes, I waited in silence for almost 5 minutes and then I heard the click, signalling that the call had been disconnected. Just what on earth is going on in Grays that makes the Council and it’s staff so unhelpful to it’s residents?

As I say, maybe you can look into the above for me.

Now, after all of that, getting back to the Aveley By-Pass….

Having checked the web pages for both Essex County Councils Highways and Thurrock Councils Highways I can find no mention of the current roadworks or road closure mentioned on either website, the reason for it, or the length of time the road is expected to be closed! I also do not fully understand why there is a diversion in operation that is sending motorists back along the B1335 Stifford Road to the B186 Stifford Hill then to Pilgrims Lane and from there on to the A1306 Arterial Road, West Thurrock and then under the M25 and on and on and on ……. adding about 5 or 6 miles to a journey that if the correct diversion signs were in place would take people people 5 minutes out of their way up Aveley High Street onto Mill Lane and back onto the Aveley By-Pass from the other end, maybe you would be so kind to favour me with a reply to these few points?



  1. Love it!
    Just the sort of lack of response I experience from Thurrock Council.
    Sort the b—ers out Thomas!

  2. Great read, and it hilights the issues within Thurrock Council, having called the offices on numerous occasions I can certainly vouch for the frustration of being put on hold and passed from pillar to post.

    Would be interesting, if they do eventually respond, if this could be placed on the site so we can all see it

  3. I got got caught out by the diversion you mentioned, I went via the High Street and Mill Lane and then back down Sandy Lane, I did however make an enquiry about the closure and was informed that the footbridge across the By Pass road had become weak and dangerous, and was therefore closed to pedestrians until a full report could be had, by a Highways Engineer, I didnt know TBC had such a person on there books, I rang the number in the telephone book, and was put through to the Highways department, who at first denied any disruptions caused by the road closeure, until I said that Artic lorries were getting stuck on the corner of Mill Lane and the High Street, because of there size, they then recalled that, the footbridge had been closed for urgent repairs, so not wanting to run my phone bill up talking a load of Cods Wallop I hung up, I cant really have ago at the Highways dept, as they do have a bloody big job on sorting out all of the A & B roads in the Thrrock area and not forgetting the hundreds of miles of footpaths etc, they ahve to maintain.

  4. These are the follow up comments and from Cllr Smith:

    Dear Cllr Smith,

    thank you for that, I trust the problem with your Blackberry is not a terminal one, although I do recall a Cllr Kiely, having similar problems a year or so ago, when I challenged him over something, it must be contagious!

    I look forward to a response from Mr Millard in due course.

    Kind Regards

    Tom Stronach

    On 29 May 2012, at 16:40, Cllr A.J Smith wrote:

    Mr Stronach due to a problem on my blackberry I was unable to read the end of your email
    Now I have read it all I have forwarded it to mr millard the head of service for his attention
    I trust you will get a full reply
    Cllr andrew smith

    Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 04:11 PM
    To: Cllr A.J Smith
    Subject: Re: Thurrock Highways

    Dear Cllr Smith

    Well, what I was looking for was a more responsive reply to ALL of the comments in my note to you and not the less than verbose one received.

    My initial query was surrounding the road closure,

    1. Notices are noticeable from their absence as to the reason for the closure locally, although you did answer this. Now I have to admit that I may have missed it in the local press, but I don’t think I saw any comment on it anywhere! And still no response as to a time frame for re-opening the road!

    2. One diversion sign pointing you back through Ockendon and nothing again until you get to the B186 hardly well signposted and why the need for such a lengthy diversion, or is the road also closed from the other end as well, and if so then why a diversion at all?

    3. Whether you took it as such or not, I was critical of the service provided by council employees, and you totally ignored that, just as the employees seem to be doing to callers!

    I wonder if you think I am just nit picking or that in fact these points are not valid, in your opinion?

    Kind Regards

    Tom Stronach

    From: Cllr A.J Smith
    To: “‘'”
    Sent: Tuesday, 29 May 2012, 15:54
    Subject: Re: Thurrock Highways

    If you need more information please ring me
    Cllr andrew smith

    Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2012 03:10 PM
    To: Cllr A.J Smith
    Cc: Cllr B Johnson
    Subject: Re: Thurrock Highways

    Dear Cllr Smith,

    Thank you for at least taking the time to respond, even if the response was less than responsive!


    Tom Stronach

  5. Danny, I fear that you are being far to generous in your final sentence when you state that, “I cant really have ago at the Highways dept, as they do have a bloody big job on sorting out all of the A & B roads in the Thrrock area and not forgetting the hundreds of miles of footpaths etc, they ahve to maintain.” That’s what they are there for and I really don’t know if you have noticed the appalling condition of the roads in Thurrock, and they are appalling and it is down to mismanagement by successive governing parties over the years and mismanagement I’ll give you an example and I don’t even live on this street, but have a look at Easington Way, shameful.

    You were told it was weak and dangerous, Cllr Smith tells me it was as a result of an accident… Do any of them know what is going on?

  6. I doubt you spoke to any Thurrock Council employee – probably one of the Vertex employees?

    In 2005 Vertex won a £427 million contract to run the following council services:-

    •Administration services
    •Business accounting and financial services
    •Customer services
    •Engineering and transportation
    •Human resources
    •ICT and e-Government
    •Payroll services
    •Procurement and property services
    •Revenues services

    So the person answering the phone will be a Vertex employee and the repairs to the bridge will be handled via Vertex who will probably sub contract the work out.

  7. Thank you Ed, interesting. Presumably they are not providing this service as a charitable function! So, one wonders just how much of the local council tax from the £427 million is going to feed this international company’s profits, when it is clearly offering such a tediously pathetic service to the local tax payer!

  8. Thank you Tom Stronach, you are correct I was only joking, as you say this council must be the laughing stock outside London, the only reason for putting all departments on one telephone exchange is to stop you ringing them, and when you get through, you are proberly talking to the wrong office or person, I have tried several times to talk to the Highways Dept, about broken paveing and cracked potholed roads, and was told they didnt own them the all belonged to Housing Estates Dept!,, I have even tried to talk to a councillor about the roads, after giving me what amounts to, B##LS##t they say with a smile I will get back to you, One councillor who has adorned all of the local newspapers for the last twelve months, with his NHS cheesy grin, cant even tell you without help where his Ward of Belhus starts and where it ends, as he never goes there, and he never helps the residents there, and they picked him to be Mayor, what dos that say about this council, and what about this Vertex they proberly will sub contract out the work to the cheapest contractor they can find, so nothing new there then, I do wish you well and really hope that you get somewhere with your on going problem, but I feel that you wont find your answer with the council or county council or bloody Vertex which is proberly another quango company run by some rich ex councillors??..

  9. Just an aside, but I thought worth mentioning: I had occasion to call Basildon Council today, I wanted to Speak to Environmental Health, guess what;

    The call was answered on the first ring, I asked for the dept and the lady operator thanked me for calling, put me throu and lo and behold, the call was picked up by a nice helpful young chap, who thanked me for calling after listening to what I had to say, informing me that an EHO would get back to me tomorrow!

    It might only be a few miles along the road, but they are galaxies apart in their response to callers – Thurrock could do well to emulate this approach, Oh! And BTW I did make enquiries and found that the operators and other staff were employees of the Council and not some faceless company earning millions?

  10. Thanks! Just send everyone through the village of Aveley! We are suffering because of the bypass closure! You will see my letter in the Gazette this week. It’s becoming dangerous as all the HGVs are ignoring the weight limit sign and are cutting through.
    so what it adds 5 miles on their journey! Those roads can take the extra load. Aveley village cannot. Although I will agree that the signage has been atrocious and if it wasn’t for the Aveley ward Councillor Ray speaking with the council it would have been a lot worse!

  11. I notified Howard Tenens Yard supervisor, who set up his own diversion board, outside the main gates to there yard, with the diversion board pointing towards Ford Place and the Mar Dyke leading onto the old A13 and the A1306, so all of Eddie Stobart Lorries and the other resident lorry companies were using the diversion, the only people using it was our, European drivers, from good old Poland etc, and they are a law unto themselves, what you have ben done was to put notices at the bottom of Sandy Lane off the A1306 and at the start of Mill Lane leading into the High Street, also at the bottom of Ship Lane, but know they let road users, find there own way out of the situation, well done Highways Dept, and Essex County Council for another good job gone bad.

  12. Pcchurch, Sorry I wasn’t making myself clear, I was n’t suggesting that HGVs should be sent through Aveley, maybe this response from a Mr Millard and then my response to that will clear up the misunderstanding:

    Dear Mr Stronach, received 31/5

    I write further to your email of Tuesday below to update you on the actions the Council has and it taking in respect of this matter.

    Our immediate concerns after the damage was reported were to ensure the safety of the public and to introduce a diversion route which minimised impacts on residential areas. Thus, the bypass was closed and a Road Traffic Order put in place to re-route traffic away from nearby communities as far as practically possible. I do accept that the diversion route is lengthy, but I trust you will understand why we have designed it in this way. In parallel, we have been in contact with the Police and asked them to step up their monitoring of the weight restriction in Aveley village.

    Alongside this, we have been assessing the extent of the structural damage to the bridge and the options available to ensure that the bypass can be safely opened as soon as possible. In liaison with the Portfolio Holder, we have agreed to put in place temporary measure to prop the footbridge. This will involve a narrowing of the bypass at this point (and necessitate a speed restriction). However, all vehicles under 4.75m in height will then be able to use the road. At the time of writing, I cannot say specifically when the works will commence as the orders for the necessary equipment are being placed. However, there is a recognised need to progress the works as soon as possible.

    With regard to the matters of the signposting of the diversion and the publication of the Traffic Order, due to the urgent nature of the situation an emergency closure Order was put into place. Emergency Orders are not advertised in the local newspaper but they are placed on the Council’s web site. Emergency services are also notified. Similarly, due to the urgent nature of the closure it was initially only possible to place a minimal number of diversion signs, whilst more informative signs were made. Those additional signs are now in place and the diversion route is now much clearer.

    Finally, on the issue of the way your calls were handled, I have asked for those matters to be investigated separately and will ensure that you are written to once those investigations are completed.

    Please let me know if I can assist further,

    Andy Millard

    Dear Mr Millard,sent 31/5

    Please accept my sincere thanks for getting back to me on this matter and if I may, deal with your final point first.

    This is not the first time I have phoned Thurrock council, and it is always the same, lengthy waits on the call to be answered, and then non existent interpersonal skills of operators and, it seems a lack of awareness in how to handle the system that they are operating. It is either that or sheer bloodymindedness in just cutting callers of. I have heard from a number of people who all tell the same sorry tale.

    The other side of that coin is if you need to call Basildon Council, where the call is answered almost immediately with professionalism and courtesy and handled with expertise, it can’t be that hard surely?

    Now, thank you for your comments on the road closure:

    I can fully understand, when an authority such as Thurrock is informed that there is damage and the bridge or structure in question is over or close to a road, that emergency plans have to be put in place, but forgive me for stating the obvious in that ‘you’ are a unitary authority and emergency plans for dealing with this type of incident should already have been in place!

    Lets take the matter of the diversion first: I do fully appreciate the need for the lengthy diversion FOR HGV’s, as I travel through Aveley almost every day and it both irritates and annoys me to the nth degree, when I am confronted by a 38 tonne Articulated lorry on the High Street/ Stifford Road which has absolutely no business being there, at any time, but regrettably they are, and on a regular basis even without the diversion, with neither Thurrock Council or Essex Police actually seeming to do anything about them as they trundle to the depot on Stifford Road Ockendon.

    My point was that the pathetic signage that was installed by Thurrock Council certainly did not comply with Chapter 8 requirements; and from the outset it should have done so, or don’t you agree, so I feel really that there can be no excuse for the shoddy management of the situation.

    There should have been clear and comprehensive signage up from the moment the road was closed diverting HGV’s back down Sandy Lane towards the A1306 and onwards back round to enter Ockendon from Pilgrims Lane and of course in reverse, there wasn’t and HGV’s were getting stuck trying to get onto Aveley High St from Mill Road.

    Additional No Entry to HGV signs should have been put in place into Aveley both at the Stifford Road and Mill Lane access points, to reinforce this fact to vehicles coming from Ockendon – there wasn’t!

    You are a local authority with Unitary status and as such are responsible for these matters within your designated area, and as such you should have a clear, clean and usable stock of signs ready to deploy for any road closure or incident within the borough. To state that none were available because it was an emergency really cuts no ice with me and for these signs not be be in place a week later, is again, down to mismanagement!

    In regard to repairs and temporary measures, I am less concerned about these at this time, although I will now make it my business to monitor the on going progress, as I understand that a full structural review has to be carefully undertaken

    You also state that because this was an emergency there was no notice placed in the local newspapers. I can understand that as it occurs, there would not be time, but, I am waiting on this weeks gazette, here I imagine that there will NOW be a notice.

    You also state that a notice would have been placed on the council’s website. Well, sorry but I have looked at every nook and cranny of Thurrocks pages and have been unable to find anything. Even under the ‘Road Closure’s’ page and one would think that as I raised this matter with Cllr Smith on Monday, that by now, Thursday, this page would have been updated, yet this is not the case!

    Finally, may I ask for clarification on your position within the council, yes, I understand that you are Head of Planning and transport, but, is this a direct employed position with the council or are you a contractor. It does have a bearing as I am now taking more interest in Thurrock Council matters and it has only recently been brought to my attention that many positions are contracted out, so I want to know if I, and other residents are receiving value for money?

    Yours sincerely

    Tom Stronach

  13. Danny, Essex CC have no control over roads in Thurrock (!!!!) I phoned them, because Thurrock is a Unitary body they have autonomy from the CC on these matters,or so I was told when I called CC Highways dept in the first instance.

    Both Essex Police and Thurrock Council are abandoning the residents of Aveley – Ship Lane, High Street, Stifford Rd and Mill Lane to the cowboy drivers of Stobart and others who continually ignore the signs excluding those type of vehicles who drive through the village even before the road closure on the Bye-Pass.

  14. As per my statement on 31st May, The supervisor on beibng told of the diversion, ensured that all drivers leaving the Howard Tenens Yard were told to turn right and use the diversion signs back to the A13 and the M25, its a real pity that TBC, couldnt do the phoneing around to notifie all the heavy haulage companies in the area, that the Aveley By Pass had been closed, another point to remember is, if you take the number of any Eddie Stobart lorries breaking the law, and report it to the supervisor in Howard Tenens Yard or on the Internet, the driver will be heavily fined for the offence or inform the police of the offences, which suprisingly enough very few people do..

  15. Danny; I will be reporting any offending vehicles I see, hopefully accompanied by photographic evidence, to The Tenens Supervisor (thanks for that) the Police and the company involved if I can get their contact details

  16. Stifford Rd, Aveley is going to be gridlocked this morning, what with the temporary traffic lights, due to a massive hole in the road, maybe caused by excessive traffic, the school reopening after the half term and the lollipop lady helping children across the road. Try and avoid if you possibly can.


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