'Laughable': A41 Bilston Road tram track work wins award for communication
A large-scale project to replace tram tracks that caused businesses to close down and cost others a fortune in lost income has been given an award.
Dozens of firms were plunged into six months of misery by lane closures on the A41 Bilston Road, as Midland Metro carried out work to replace old tracks.
Now it has emerged that the scheme has been given a top industry award –partly for its communications with businesses during the project.
The Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) also handed an award to the Rugeley flood defence scheme, which at £5.2 million cost nearly three times more than originally planned.
The Bilston Road metro works landed recognition in the ‘large projects’ category.
By the time the one and a half mile stretch reopened in December last year two firms – The Grafix Workshop and Smoke Busters – had gone bust while others said they had been pushed to the brink due to loss of trade.
Bosses of firms affected by the works have branded the award ‘laughable’, with one describing it as ‘an insult’ to businesses that struggled during the scheme.
ICE judges praised the project team for ensuring that tram users, local businesses, residents and road users were informed and kept up-to-date on the progress of the scheme.
Abi Hatipoglu, who runs Coffee Express on Bilston Road, said his business nearly went to the wall due to trade being reduced to a trickle by the works.
“It is a joke that they have got an award,” he said. “Absolutely laughable. To say their communication was good is rubbish.
“They didn’t tell businesses about their plans until a month before the work started, and even then some businesses were not told.
"They made us promises that they would help out and support us but they did nothing for us. They left us to suffer and to see them winning an award is an insult.”
The Rugeley flood defence scheme was completed to protect 114 homes and 159 businesses from flooding when the Rising Brook overflows and the culvert at Rugeley becomes full.
It was run by the Environment Agency and won the top award in the ‘sustainability’ category.
It took one year to construct the 350m-long embankment along Hagley playing fields, which bust through its original budget of £2m.
In making their decision the judges noted that not only did the project score highly in all areas of the submission, but that partners had gone ‘beyond their original remit’ delivering a white-clawed crayfish ark site and restoring a heritage trail bridge.
A ICE spokeswoman said: “I congratulate the winners of our 2018 awards and all entrants for their hard work and dedication, which often goes unseen by the general public.
"All of these are projects which showcase the diverse and innovative talent within our industry.”
"This is an exciting time for industry growth and it is important for us to acknowledge celebrate the achievements of our civil engineers, not just from the present but also from the past in our 200th anniversary year.
"In highlighting our people and projects we will hopefully inspire the next generation to think about following an exciting and rewarding career in civil engineering.”
The awards were judged by a panel of chartered civil engineers.
A spokesman for the Midland Metro Alliance, which was behind the project, said: "The Bilston Road Track Replacement Project has been recognised by ICE in its Large Project Award category for its engineering techniques and outcomes, as well as the number of local companies the Midland Metro Alliance brought in to provide a large number of services and products, and the fact that we hired a number of locally unemployed people.
“Although we recognise that a small number of traders stated the works affected their passing trade, we worked hard to maintain access to all businesses at all times, keep the traders up-to-date on the progress of works, listen and react to any concerns they had, as well as support them with additional signage, marketing support and an advertising campaign to highlight they were open as usual, which included advertising on trams, buses, in local magazines and on social media.
“We do appreciate the current climate is a very difficult time for retailers and that nobody likes disruption, which is why we worked hard to finish the project as soon as practicable and get the road opened and tram operating ahead of schedule.”