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How long does it take to fix a sunken manhole cover putting "cyclists' safety at risk" ?

18 months and counting if you're Anglian Water which is "still trying to identify problem"...

A councillor in Bedford has criticised Anglian Water for failing to carry out repairs to sunken manhole covers that are putting cyclists’ safety at risk more than 18 months after it was advised of the problem.

Councillor Sue Oliver has told the utility company that it needs to fix the problem straight away or else it could be charged for the work by Bedford Borough Council, reports Bedford Today.

However the council has informed Mrs Oliver that the manhole covers, on Kempston Road near Bedford Hospital, are the responsibility of Anglian Water and that it approached the company in 2009 to ask it to effect repairs.

“These dangerous holes were reported to Anglian Water 18 months ago,” said Mrs Oliver.

“I am outraged that repeated requests by the council to make them safe appear to have been ignored.

“It is sheer luck that these serious road defects haven’t caused an accident before now. It’s just a matter of time before a cyclist is thrown under a car when their bike hits a hole.”

The councillor added that road users swerving to avoid the holes in the road had created an additional danger.

“Thousands of cars, cyclists and motorcyclist pass over these dangerous covers every day,” she explained.

“I travel this route daily and I’ve repeatedly seen cars and bikes swerve to avoid them.

“I can’t believe that Anglian Water hasn’t taken notice of the council’s requests to rebuild the sunken covers.

“Enough is enough, I have now asked the council to take immediate action to make the road safe and recharge the costs back to Anglian Water.”

A spokesman for Anglian Water told Bedford Today that it was trying to identify the exact problem that needed remedying, but added: “We have not been able to find anything out at the moment. We are investigating what is going on and we hope to get it sorted out as soon as possible.”

The fact that the problem seems to be a rather large hole in the road at a specified location hopefully means that it will take them a little less than 18 months to conclude their enquiries.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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mike78 | 12 years ago

Strange how different companies respond to different people. Saw a sunken cover on my night shift, called it in and by the time I came to ride in the next night Southwest Water had fixed it.

A V Lowe | 12 years ago

I was brought down by a valve cover - or lack of one and its wooden plug replacement had rotated by 45 degrees. The roads authority (Council) claimed the road was in perfect order but everywhere the case valve covers were missing and replaced by wooden plugs - some in place so long that grass was growing in the hole.

Manhole covers sink because the detailing of the joint between tarmac (flexible) and steel (rigid) is poorly executed. A transition strip which is part flexible/part rigid is a good solution and it works - look at some of the older manholes on the A10 in Hackney and they have a course of stone blocks between the tarmac and the steel edge. The stone blocks can move by a small amount laid with a tight bond and sealed with liquid tar so the blocks stay close to the edge of the steel. Tarmac does not stick to steel proven daily across the UK around thousands of manhole frames and drain grids (you'd have thought someone might have noticed this by now!) the stone blocks do keep the gap against the steel closed, bond better to the tarmac, and move with it.

This is also the solution for the edge of tram rails BUT the spec is heavy stone setts at least 6 inches deep, laid on a bed of clay or tar and with tight joints - not the rubbish which is generally laid today with a weak sand-cement mix brushed over the blocks to fill the wide gaps between them, Blocks are often far to 'thin' and laid on a sand bed that can be leached away by water seeping through the gaps between the blocks - all basically because its cheaper and faster not to lay to the old standards of craftsmanship.

Under the tarmac in many cities are streets laid with tight jointed flush top setts and when the tarmac breaks away these are revealed as a usable surface which does not suffer from potholes - except where a utility company has pulled them up and failed to repair the bed (tar or clay) and surface (putting back the setts properly). We have hers a flush setted street which has had no maintenance in over 160 years - and where the utilities have not wrecked it it is as good as the year it was laid, and it is smooth to cycle over. Very sadly one Council (Edinburgh) wrecked a beautifully smooth flush setted street (Cockburn Street) which was on my regular commute to the rail station by re-laying it in the WRONG sort of setts - with uneven and lumpy top faces and bigger gaps - really spoiled the 3 minute sprint from flat to train.

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