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Unsung ‘Road Heroes’ recognised in national campaign

Published on Friday, September 6, 2019

City Mayor with John Wood and John Raby of highways team

A WORKMAN who has been repairing Leicester’s roads for more than 50 years is one of a legion of unsung heroes which are the focus of a national campaign taking place today.

John Wood started work at the Corporation of Leicester (a forerunner of the present city council) when he was just 15 in 1968 – the same year as the launch of Apollo 8, The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and the completion of the M1 motorway – and still works for Leicester City Council’s highways maintenance team as a digger driver.

His first job was road worker at Blackbird Road, lowering the road beneath the Great Central Railway bridge to stop lorries from colliding with it.

Now, 51 years on, he remains part of the army of largely unknown staff who work behind the scenes to keep the city’s roads open.

Workers like John are being championed in a Department for Transport campaign to raise awareness of the country’s huge workforce who keep the nation’s traffic moving, as part of its Road Heroes Day, on Friday, September 6.

In Leicester over the last 10 years, Leicester City Council has spent nearly £35million on road surface maintenance alone, including fixing potholes and resurfacing work across the city’s 830 kilometres of streets.

In addition, highways teams carry out more than 8,600 road inspections each year, repairing between 4,000 and 7,000 defects every year.

Since 2011, the road safety and highways teams have installed more than 40 new 20mph zones in neighbourhoods across the city where residents have called for action to improve safety.

During the winter nights, the teams are responsible for gritting hundreds of kilometres of the city’s roads in all weathers to ensure the road network continues to function. During the long bitter winter of 2017/18, they used up nearly 2,500 tonnes of rock salt on 60 overnight gritting runs.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby met with the some of the teams responsible for the work earlier this week.

He said: “The city council’s highways team are often the people you don’t see – those who grit the roads in the dead of night during the winter, the workers who repair potholes and resurface damaged streets.

“They often carry out the kind of work most people don’t even notice, but the role they play in keeping the city’s roads open and traffic moving is invaluable.

“They work incredibly hard to ensure the roads remain in the condition needed to meet the modern demands of traffic in a city the size of Leicester.

“I am very proud of our highways teams, and very grateful for the vital work they carry out often around the clock and behind the scenes, but from which all the city benefits.”

John added: “What’s the secret of working here so long? I like the work that I do, and I like driving a digger.”

Other long-serving members of the team include Prafull Shukla, who has been working on the city’s roads for 47 years, and John Raby, who has been in the Highways Team for 39 years.

Prafull said: “I enjoy my work, knowing it makes a real difference to people. There’s a lot of local knowledge on our team, which means we know the city’s roads very well after working on them for so long.”

In 2018/19, the city council invested £4.75million invested in road repairs and upkeep.

Director of City Highways at Leicester City Council, Martin Fletcher, added: “We’ve got a really dedicated team of local people who are prepared to go the extra mile, working hard to keep the roads safe and in good condition.”