IT has been almost a year since roadworks along Ipswich Road and Harwich Road in Colchester began.

Even then it was certain 15 months of disruption would not come without its problems.

From water works to cables and drivers trying to navigate around diversions, the project has seen more than its fair share of setbacks.

But what exactly has been achieved in the past 12 months?

Most of the work completed so far has concerned utility diversions, with BT cables, gas mains and water mains diverted.

It means pipes and cables are now under pavements and verges instead of the road itself, so any future alterations can be done without road closures and the huge expense which goes with it.

The Waitrose wall has been demolished, moved and re-built, and road widening in St Andrew’s Avenue is well underway.

It is progress but there is still a long way to go and with all the setbacks so far, the completion date has been moved back from winter this year to summer next year.

One of the most significant delays was the fact the water mains located in Ipswich Road were different to those on existing records.

There was also a huge water leak in Harwich Road which had to be repaired and BT cable replacement in Ipswich Road South proved a far greater task than predicted.


  • The roadworks at Ipswich Road

It meant parts of Ipswich Road which were due to be closed for two weeks ended up being closed for more than twice that time.

Contractor Eurovia’s frustration is all utility diversion work is out of their control and is down to individual utility companies.

And the whys and the wherefores are no comfort to the people who are inconvenienced by the roadworks on a daily basis.

Phil Suarez, who runs Jennifleurs, in nearby St Christopher Road, is concerned the completion date could be pushed back further if there are more setbacks.

He said: “As a business we breathe a sigh of relief when the roads re-open and groan when they close.

“Clearly a lot behind the scenes has been achieved but from a front-facing consumer perspective there doesn’t seem to be a lot that has been of tangible benefit to the community.

“I’m worried the completion date may be pushed back further and the only people who will suffer are the public and businesses.”


  • The roadworks at Ipswich Road

Considering all the road closures and diversions, drivers have coped relatively well navigating the detours.

There have been a few bumps and scrapes, and we cannot forget the period in March when drivers flouted the one-way restrictions along Ipswich Road south.

It left Eurovia no choice but to fully close the section of road for four weeks.

Essex County Council says it monitors traffic to keep drivers in the correct lanes.

A council spokesman said: “We continually monitor several times a day, every day, the traffic behaviour in the road works and tweak the cones and barriers to ensure safe and efficient movement at all times.

“We have often had to restrict lanes leading to a roundabout, for example, so there is no dangerous bottleneck on the roundabout.”

So where does this leave us now? The council is confident the worst of the delays are behind us.


  • The roadworks at Ipswich Road

The construction of the single roundabouts at Ipswich Road and Harwich Road is yet to come, as well as the widening between the junctions to two lanes in each direction.

Then, of course, there is the road resurfacing, signage changes and road markings.

The completion date has already been delayed by six months and businesses think it could be pushed back further.

The effects on trade has been detrimental.

Jason and Anne Khan, of DX’s Rollerworld at Moorside Business Park, organised a meeting with the council and businesses to find some sort of solution.

Jason said: “The council started off well, people came to speak to us and it was good they were communicating.

“They put out some yellow direction signs for us but since then all they have done is change the dates the works stop and start.

“As a business, it’s impossible to plan for this sort of disruption.

“It’s frustrating as there is a marked drop in sales because of the roadworks, there is a direct correlation.”


  • Concerned - Anne Khan of DX's Rollerworld 

Anne is concerned the upcoming closure of Ipswich Road South on August 19 will be extended again as it was before.

Businesses and residents have said they would prefer the works to be carried out overnight if it meant the job was completed earlier.

Despite the disruption Rollerworld has been able to carry out a number of upgrades and is still open for business.

The council has also introduced more signage directing people to businesses.

A council spokesman said: “At times when changing traffic management layouts we have personally directed drivers to their destinations.

“We have made sure that businesses know any changes to plans as soon as we do to give them every chance to adjust.

“We greatly regret there have been some problems caused to businesses, but we have done everything possible to mitigate them.”

Twelve months on and the question on everyone’s lips remains the same, however: Why is this project taking so long to complete?

The delays are frustrating and the traffic is gruelling, but it is important to look for a moment at the flip side of the situation.

It is crucial these works are not rushed as the consequences would be catastrophic.

A damaged utility pipe or unsolved issue could leave Colchester without phone lines, water and gas for a long time.

As tedious as the past 12 months have seemed, very careful excavation is a must.

The risks are far too great to cut corners.

Drivers will have to be patient a while longer.