East Sussex Highways emergency team – not just for Christmas

The council’s Highways team are available to deal with emergency call outs throughout the year.

Although there is usually an increase in out of hours calls during the winter months, the Highways team deal with emergencies on the county’s roads 365 days a year helping the public, making hazards on the highway safe and keeping roads open in all weathers.

Members of the Highways team carry out duty officer roles, with three members of staff on call every week throughout the year monitoring emergency calls from the public and the police between 4pm and 8am.

Russell Richards-Collins, whose day job is working as a Highways Project Manager, said: “I can receive anything from two to 30 calls in an evening, ranging from dead animals, fallen trees and oil spills to potholes, flooding and failed traffic lights. The calls usually relate to obstructions on the road or adjacent footpaths.”

Russell adds: “The timing of emergencies is somewhat sporadic, and we often receive calls in the early hours of the morning.”

“Our busiest time is usually when adverse weather hits and during those periods you have to manage multiple emergencies at the same time.”

The three duty officers on call during last month’s storm on November 15 took a total of 92 calls with 50 calls alone concerning the central area of the county around Heathfield, Crowborough and Uckfield.

Winter storms bringing high winds and heavy rain can cause chaos with floods and fallen trees blocking roads, cutting off communities and stopping emergency access. The Highways emergency teams work 24/7 to clear obstructions and reopen roads as quickly and safely as possible.

The team don’t just deal with emergencies caused by bad weather. Last month a duty officer was alerted to a pothole that had suddenly appeared on Market Street in St Leonards. Following the call at 6.45pm the emergency team attended and discovered a large void, or sinkhole, 20 feet deep under the carriageway.

The team spent two hours on site, closing the road, moving vehicles and evacuating the immediate area to ensure the safety of local residents and to allow investigations to take place.

Cllr Claire Dowling, lead member for transport and the environment, said: “Although their busiest months are during winter, the Highways emergency team respond to emergencies on our county’s roads throughout the year.

“They attend road traffic accidents, remove fallen trees, clear flooded roads and repair damaged carriageways, providing a vital service assisting the public and ensuring traffic is kept moving across East Sussex.”

Over the last six months from May to October the team have received nearly 1,000 calls. In total last year they received 377 calls relating to potholes, 265 calls about fallen trees and 211 calls concerning obstructions in the road. 

Russell said: “Being on call is challenging but it can be rewarding. Members of the public are usually very grateful for the assistance and service that we provide.”

To report an emergency issue on the county’s roads, please call 0345 60 80 193. The service is available 365 days a year, and duty officers will be available over Christmas to cover any emergencies during the festive season.