Anglesey, off the North Wales coast has reported remarkable results from a two-year trial that returned to old-fashioned methods to bring its much criticised road network up to modern standards.
In April 2004, Isle of Anglesey County Council established a pilot scheme to test the effectiveness of giving a gang of workers responsibility for dayto-day upkeep of roads within a defined area.
The experiment has been a resounding success, with the council recording a 77% reduction in complaints areas where the gangs work.
Each gang can be tagged with responsibility for the overall presentation of the roads in its area, creating a strong incentive and instilling a sense of pride in the job.
Detailed knowledge of local road geography can help gangs predict the effects of certain weather conditions like ice or heavy rain.
Each gang consists of two workers with a lorry, a depot and basic equipment. Tasks include:
improving water run-off, with minor works on ditches, verges and drains;
repairing and cleaning signs;
cutting back vegetation that threatens to obscure signs or impair drivers' visibility;
filling holes and applying concrete to reinforce gullies;
responding rapidly to problems that arise.
The gangs must spot and tackle repairs as well as work from job lists from an inspector.
Generally, the gangs tackle work that can be completed in a day.
Bigger jobs are referred to the council. In winter, the gangs spread salt on rural roads outside the council's network of priority routes.
The gang scheme is a partnership between the county council, its highways maintenance partner JDM Accord and community councils. Each gang costs about £115,000 a year.
All three pilot scheme gangs have been retained. Funding permitting, Anglesey head of highways Dewi Williams hopes two more gangs will be set up by next April to cover the island's remaining areas.