Eastern Relief Road Residents Update

11 Apr 2017
relief road.jpg

An update on the ongoing works to complete the Shinfield Eastern Relief Road

Firstly, we would like to apologise for the inconvenience the delays to these works have caused. We understand residents’ frustrations and would like to explain the reasons behind these delays.

The project has encountered a number of unforeseen difficulties (including a groundwater problem, additional flood resilience modelling being required, exceptionally cold weather and quality issues) which has resulted in delays to the delivery. HOCHTIEF has brought in extra resource to address these issues and is committed to ensuring that the project is finished as soon as possible.

The primary reason for building the Relief Road is to ease the amount of traffic going through Shinfield, which would otherwise increase once the new housing community is developed on the Shinfield West site. Whilst the construction of the road has been inconvenient for local residents, we believe the new Relief Road will ultimately benefit all in the long-run.

A number of residents have been in touch recently, raising some specific concerns about the project. We have tried to address these concerns below:

Completion date Works at Shinfield Road and Arborfield Road, as well as the removal of all temporary traffic restrictions and traffic signals, will be complete by early May, other than minor snagging items. In order to complete these minor works, we will need to carry out some of the work overnight. We appreciate that construction works can sometimes be disruptive and unavoidably noisy for those nearest; however, the alternative would be that the works continued to be disruptive for a much longer period.

Unforeseen groundwater issues on the new Relief Road itself mean that it will take a little longer to complete. Independent consultants have been brought in – they have submitted a report on the root cause of the problem and suggested a mitigation solution, which is currently being reviewed, and a design plan will follow imminently. Unfortunately, once the reconstruction period is included, it will be 2-3 months before the Relief Road is able to be opened.

Flooding/groundwater issues The groundwater issue is not related to the flood plain or existing groundwater table. This is an unforeseen issue affecting the newly constructed carriageway, which came to light only after construction of the Relief Road was complete. Until it is solved, this issue compromises the integrity and safety of the road, which is why we are not yet able to open it to the public.

Authority/responsibility for the project As the highway authority, Wokingham Borough Council has given permission for the University of Reading to construct the new road. The new road is required to enable the
future housing development at Shinfield West.

The project is designed, constructed and managed by HOCHTIEF, on behalf of the University of Reading. HOCHTIEF meet regularly with the Borough Council to keep it up to date with the progress of the work.
In addition, Wokingham Borough Council has worked with the project team to provide technical approval of the detailed highway design, to ensure the road is constructed to the required safety standards and is currently providing sufficient road space for HOCHTIEF to complete the project as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, the Environment Agency has to give consent to any building work adjacent to a flood plain. In order to receive consent for the project, various requirements on pollution, flooding and groundwater discharge were fulfilled by the project team.

Weather delays There have been two particularly severe weather delays due to rain – once in August 2015 and again in June 2016. Once the completion of the project was pushed into the winter of 2016, weather became more of a challenge. Extreme cold spells during that period meant that certain materials took longer to dry/set than would have been the case had the work been undertaken when originally planned, especially on Arborfield Road where there is a “cold spot”. Overnight surfacing works were also postponed because the weather was too cold to lay the surfacing and still be able to guarantee the quality of the end product. Lost shifts have not always been immediately regained due to other pre-planned works on the Wokingham Borough Council road network.

Community engagement HOCHTIEF and the University of Reading, supported by Wokingham Borough Council, are working closely to ensure local residents, businesses and other community stakeholders are kept as up-to-date as possible. We take our responsibility to engage with the community seriously and have sent project updates to Borough Councillors, stakeholders and the local community at appropriate times. In addition, HOCHTIEF has attended community meetings and used local publications and media to distribute updates. Advance warning signage has also been displayed prior to specific planned road works.
Relief Road pedestrian crossings

There is a permissive footpath leading from Oatlands Road to the Relief Road. This was closed on safety grounds, as required under legislation, at the beginning of the project to prevent the public from accessing the construction site. As part of the project, HOCHTIEF constructed an access ramp up the embankment to the Relief Road and a ramp back down the other side to the public footpath.

As per the Planning permission, an uncontrolled crossing is provided in this location. However, as with all highway schemes, an independent road safety audit is required to be
undertaken shortly after the road opens. This audit will review the scheme whilst in operation and any safety related issues that are highlighted will be addressed. The kissing gates will remain locked until the Relief Road has opened, in order to prevent public access on to the construction site.

Environmental impact The original Planning permission for the project did not include specific noise mitigation details. However, one of the pre-commencement conditions (No. 21) required the project to demonstrate details of measures to mitigate the impacts of noise during construction and operation. A fenced solution was submitted to Wokingham Borough Council in order to discharge this pre-commencement condition at the end of December 2014.

During the development of the detailed scheme design it was considered that noise mitigation, to the levels set out in the Environmental Statement, could be achieved in some areas through the use of low noise surfacing and other measures. As such, a variation to the application was submitted to Wokingham Borough Council’s Planning team in July 2016 to amend the extent of the previously accepted noise fencing. The application was considered at Planning committee and the variation was approved in September 2016, on the condition that pre and post noise monitoring would be carried out to demonstrate that the revised mitigation solution performs as expected.

Pre-opening monitoring has been undertaken and post-opening monitoring will be carried out once the Relief Road is open to traffic and the results submitted to the Planning Authority. The installation of additional flood relief culverts under Arborfield Road was necessary to satisfy an Environment Agency requirement, as part of the Planning Permission for the project, and will help reduce the effect of upstream flooding.

We will update residents, businesses and all other community stakeholders as soon as opening dates for all roads are confirmed.
In the meantime, if you have any further queries, please contact Kelly Shear, Stakeholder Manager at HOCHTIEF: kelly.shear@hochtief.co.uk