It would take 12 years to litter-pick the main carriage verges at this rate

Agency staff do not carry out formal inspections

Contractor only inspects monthly

Access to sweeping and cleaning procedures denied

Substandard land graded as acceptable`

In January 2014 James Miller made an information request to the Highways Agency requesting litter picking statistics for the stretch of the M5 between J25 and J31 for 2013.

This is that southern end of the motorway between Taunton and Exeter. It is part of Highways Agency’s Area 2. The maintenance contract for this Area was awarded to  Atkins Skanska JV in February 2012. It was the first time the Agency’s had used its new Asset Support Contract which had been designed to “deliver substantial cost savings”. 

He received a letter saying that the M5 was assessed monthly for litter by the contractor. Daily inspections were carried out to pick up debris. He understood that this was to remove dangerous materials from the tarmacked surfaces.

He was given 11 dates on which litter had been removed. There was no littering picking in Jan, Mar, May, June, Nov and Dec. It was described as “targeted litter picking”.

On inquiring further he was given copies of the relevant inspection reports and requests specifying which sections were to be litter picked and when.

The stretch is 55.1 kms long. In the year the contractor only cleaned 8.7 kms of main carriageway verge out of a total of 55.1 x 2 = 110.2 kms.  So in the year they only cleaned 8.7/110.2 = 7.88% of the verges.  At that rate it would take 12 years to clean the whole stretch!

There were 17 slip-road-cleans compared to a total number of slip roads of 30 (4 per junction but 2 for J31). So each slip road  was cleaned on average  17/30 =  0.566 times pa i.e. once every 6.8 months.

On making further inquiries Mr Miller was told that all inspection were carried out by the contractor and that “Highways Agency staff do not carry out formal inspections“.

He asked for a copy of the relevant pages of the Maintenance Requirements Plan dealing with sweeping and cleaning. The MRP is produced by the contractor and states how he intends to go about his duties. It is therefore a key contractual document.

The whole  section was redacted by the Agency “as it contains commercially sensitive information“. This is however not a valid exception under the Environmental Information Regulations.  Mr Miler has submitted a complaint to the Information Commissioner on these grounds and on the grounds that the response was not made within the statutory 20 days.

He was however able to establish that:

No records of the actual cleaning, as opposed to inspections, are held.

That an area is graded as a B provided it had not deteriorated to grade C.

This would mean that areas below grade B would be incorrectly graded as B.  The Litter Code of Practice 7.3 says that land should be kept clear of litter so that it does not fall below a grade B.

The M32 connecting Britol to the M4 is also part of Area2.    Andrew Edgington’s photographs of J1 showed that this junction on the M32 had not been litter picked for over 2 years.

Peter Silverman
22nd May 2014


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