The “Road closed” sign at Forest Road, Newport, with “Bouldnor Road” at the top.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Let’s get some cards on the table. I have supported the principle of PFI to improve the Island’s crumbling road network from its inception, because there seemed little option if we were not to end up using tracked vehicles to navigate our way around.
The theory is fine but the practice is leaving something to be desired at the moment.
Allow me to detain you with a whimsical tale.
Normally there’s nothing I enjoy more than trundling gently round the Island but I prefer to do so at a time, and on a route, of my own choosing.
Therefore, when Mrs N and I set out to visit a deli in Shalfleet the other day, an Island Roads-inspired excursion round the West Wight was the last thing on our minds.
All was going swimmingly until we reached the junction of Forest Road and Gunville Road, where a sign advised motorists the road ahead was closed, thereby denying them access to Yarmouth and the ferries.
As you will see from the photograph, the only indication as to the precise location of the aforementioned roadworks were the words 'Bouldnor Road’ hastily (and amateurishly) jammed in across the top of the sign as something of an after-thought.
These words would be meaningless to most holidaymakers anyway and when you’re in a line of traffic, especially one approaching traffic lights, there’s no chance to gnaw the indecisive knuckle and absorb such minutiae.
This is why we found ourselves in the queue snaking its way through Gunville, along the middle road and all the way into Freshwater before entering Yarmouth through the back door.
It was then we discovered the Island Roads’ lads were actually busying themselves just the other side of the town, so there was no alternative but to make our way back from whence we had come. I’m sure we could have wended our way through Thorley and Wellow but the locals are very tetchy about matters environmental at the moment and the last thing they wanted was a lungful of carbon emissions, courtesy of Island Roads.
This PFI contract is worth hundreds of millions of pounds, so why are the firm sub-contracted to manage the road closures — an outfit called Headway — allowed to go about their duties in such a slipshod, cheapskate manner?
Surely a series of clear, purpose-built signs should be deployed at this junction, in the following order: "Road closed on outskirts of Yarmouth", "Diversion ahead for town and ferry port", "Access available to Porchfield, Shalfleet and Hamstead".
Other roads, you may be surprised to learn, appear to get a far more personal service from Headway.
A Newchurch resident contacted me to point out that when Palmer’s Lane in the village was closed, one of their operatives turned up at the junction of the lane with the High St and erected the now familiar "Road closed" boards.
He then sat there for the next eight hours doing nothing, before returning the following day to put in another full day’s "work".
The resident asked Island Roads why a company funded by public money could afford to pay a man to sit in a truck for two days doing nothing.
He was informed such a sentry was required (if you hadn’t already guessed) under health and safety guidelines.
If this is really the case, why hasn’t every "Road closed" sign on the Island got its own personal sentry?
Can we shed light on these mucky signs?
Take a good look at these road signs and tell me what they say. What do you mean, you can’t read it because it’s covered in filth and is positioned high up on a lamp-post?
That’s no excuse. It could be a priceless piece of highway legislation which you could run the risk of finding yourself in contravention of, thereby incurring the wrath of a passing traffic warden.
In fact, it’s just another example of slipshod work in what has not been a good week for Island Roads.
It installed one of its snazzy new eco-friendly lamp-posts and then made it as difficult as possible for anyone to read by the dim light of the snazzy new eco-friendly lamps by leaving the bottom sign smeared in filth and the middle one indecipherable beneath a thick layer of grime.
The operatives concerned obviously did not have the instruction "Please clean signs before replacing them" on their worksheet. So they didn’t bother.
Let us look at the notices in detail. The top one is obviously a warning not to hit The Krankies over the head with a bicycle and the bottom one apparently counsels against the advisability of quaffing al fresco.
As for the middle one — your guess is as good as mine.
Perhaps Island Roads could employ a chap from Headway to stand there all day and read it aloud to people.