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Support not abuse: Look after our key road workers

Road workers have been subjected to abuse while carrying out repairs during the coronavirus lockdown.

Oxfordshire County Council maintains the major roads across the county, and is currently undertaking a £32million programme of roadworks.

Its road crews are classed as key workers and they have been able to carry on working even during lockdown conditions.

But according to the council, some members of staff have been subjected to abuse from members of the public.

The government has stated councils should carry on with work to improve and make roads safe as long as it can be done within Public Health England guidance.

But Liam Walker, the council’s cabinet member for highways delivery and operations, said some road crews had been criticised or faced abuse while working.

Mr Walker said: “I urge our local communities to observe social distancing and not to approach our highways maintenance crews. Many of them are delivering critical work and should be applauded for their service during these uncertain times.”

He added that many of the complaints against crews had been that they were not following social distancing measures.

He said: “Fixing potholes while maintaining social distancing is difficult, but we have corrected it now.”

Highways maintenance workers are among the transport sector workers which the government has identified as key workers.

Conservative councillor Mr Walker also added that the maintenance workers helped other key workers travel to and from their jobs during the lockdown.

He said: “We are making sure the roads are safe to use. We have still got ambulances, care workers and social workers using the road network and we have to make sure they are up to scratch for them.”

The councillor also said the clear road network was an opportunity for Oxfordshire County Council to carry out maintenance work without disrupting traffic.

Work which has been completed under the lockdown includes the re-organisation of a crossroads junction at Worcester Street into to separate roads.

The council is continuing to undertake a £32 million series of roadworks it committed to in February when an ongoing capital works programme to repair roads was agreed as part of the budget.

Other areas where work will be carried out include at Headley Way in Headington and Oxford Road, Banbury.

Other key workers which have suffered abuse due to the perception they were not following social distancing measures have included an NHS worker living in East Anglia.

Mental health worker Sam Halms discovered a note on her car describing her as selfish for travelling to work every day.

But her neighbour who left the note did not realise she was a key worker, as she did not drive to work in uniform.

Author: David Lynch

Disclaimer: This article was not originally written by a member of the Safer Highways team.

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