A TELECOMMUNICATIONS company has been fined twice for ‘emergency roadworks’ in Wantage which made nurses late to work and children miss medical appointments.

Openreach had an ‘emergency permit’ for work that needed to be carried out on the A417 between White Road and Featherbed Lane on Wednesday last week (January 18).

Temporary traffic lights, which were unmanned by the company, caused about six miles of congestion leading to appointments, school and work being missed by residents.

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However, Oxfordshire County Council investigated the roadworks and found that Openreach were not complying with the permit conditions so were fined by the authority.

Openreach applied immediately for a permit which was granted under specific conditions which a councillor claims were not met by the company the following morning (January 19) resulting in a further £8,000 fine.

Councillor Jane Hanna OBE, who represents Grove and Wantage on the authority, said something needs to be done about utility companies and the impact emergency works has on towns.

“I was caught up in the traffic jam myself,” she said. “It was a two and a half hour round trip to Didcot from Wantage.

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“The most severe impact was from nurses, teachers and families that were trying to get to work and medical appointments.

“One mother had waited 18 months to get her child a CAHMS appointment and she missed it and now has to start the progress again.

“We have children miss their lessons when they are trying to catch up after the pandemic.

“So something needs to be done about these utility companies. How can they sort this out so the work they are doing is not being harmful to our residents in the way it has been?

“They need to be claiming emergencies when it is actually an emergency and they need to staff the traffic lights and keep traffic moving.”

Another incident on the same day saw Thames Water apply for an emergency permit in the middle of Wantage.

However, the temporary traffic lights stopped working after the company left the town leaving police to resolve the issue.

“Companies need to recognise the importance of the people they serve,” said Ms Hanna. “They need to understand the impact of what they do.

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“We were left abandoned by the company and we were really frightened with what was going to happen with the light failure and children crossing the road for school in the morning.

“Certainly residents will be keeping their eyes open now and I’m sure companies do not want the bad publicity.”

An Openreach spokesperson said: “We requested a permit for traffic management on the Reading Road so that our partner, Circet, could undertake urgent repairs to a carriageway box which had become unsafe and posed a danger to road users. This was put in place late on the afternoon of Monday 16 January.

“The permit was then revoked on the afternoon of the 17 January due to a build-up of traffic. This left the carriageway box vulnerable to collapse and extended the repair time by another day; repairs were completed and the road made safe by the morning of 19 January.  

“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank everyone for their understanding while we completed the work."


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This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Abingdon, Didcot, Wallingford and Wantage.

Get in touch with her by emailing: gee.harland@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @geeharland