Suffolk’s wettest ever winter breaks highway response records

After months of extreme and sustained downpours, highways teams in Suffolk are breaking response and repair records whilst battling their most challenging operational period ever.

Storm Babet saw nearly two months’ worth of rain fall in 24 hours, the subsequent storms and severe weather events saw more sustained rainfall, leading up to what Met Office described as the fifth wettest February on record since 1836 with several days still to go.

As a result of the extreme weather, Suffolk Highways has seen an 82% increase in requests for action on the highway – 18,000 additional customers reports so far during the 2023/24 financial year.

The number of drainage and flooding issues have increased by a staggering 364% in the last five months when compared to the same period in 2022/23. Suffolk Highways has also responded to 2,117 emergency incidents in the same period, which represents a 64% increase on last year.

The increased wet weather coupled with occasional freezing temperatures this time of year results in a sharp rise in pothole breakouts. Despite these challenges, highways has completed 34% more repairs to potholes in 2023/24 when compared with the previous year.

To help keep up with this unparalleled increase in demand, Suffolk County Council is investing more resource and trialing new ways of working, including:

  • Increased highway funding allocated to fix potholes, resurface roads and repair drainage
  • 70% increase in highway crews to maintain and repair the roads
  • Launching a trial of new ‘Dragon Patcher’ equipment – a pothole-repairing machine which can repair potholes up to five times faster than traditional methods
  • Trailing a ‘Road Mender’ – a patching machine used in urban areas which will help boost productivity and present more environmental benefits

Councillor Paul West, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for Ipswich, operational highways and flooding, said: “The extremes of weather we have witnessed across the county since October is like nothing we have experienced before. The rainfall has been heavy, relentless and unforgiving.

“Much like other local authorities up and down the country, this weather has presented us with some unprecedented challenges, especially when it comes to maintaining the highway network – despite this, Suffolk is rising to the challenge.

“It is clear from the statistics that highways teams are doing more than ever before, working harder and faster, resulting in more pothole repairs and more drainage issues resolved. Unfortunately, the demand outweighs the progress we are making so there continues to be much to do.

“I want to reassure Suffolk’s residents that we are doing everything we can to ensure the highway network is being maintained to a safe standard, however during this time I ask that residents take extra care when travelling and report any issues you spot to us. I also want to thank residents for their patience and understanding during this time.”


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