Sunday, 16 September 2012

Mail on Sunday corrects '£190,000 for two road signs' story

In his column on 11 September, Richard Littlejohn said:

The picturesque Yorkshire town of Masham has been pushed off the map by bungling bureaucrats.

After the nearby A1 was upgraded to a six-lane motorway, the nearest junction to Masham was closed and passing trade dried up.

Local councillors and business owners asked the Highways Agency to relocate direction signs to another junction two miles south, but they were told it would be too expensive. When they offered to pay for the signs themselves, they were quoted a staggering £190,000. After a bit of haggling, the agency agreed to reduce the price to £30,000 — way beyond the means of the town, which has suffered hundreds of thousands of pounds in lost business.

Heaven only knows where they came up with £190,000 for two road signs. Even 30 grand is an absurd amount of money.

Out of interest, I checked the website of Archer Safety Signs, which supplies everything from No Entry and Keep Left notices to public footpath signs.

How much? Have a guess. Not even close. Prices range from £38.75 for a national speed limit sign up to £53.60 for something more elaborate. Archer will also do you a nice line in posts and fittings, starting at just over £19. Chuck in a bag of cement and a couple of blokes with shovels, and it’s job done for under 500 quid, all in.

So how did the Highways Agency come up with a quote of £190,000? Your guess is as good as mine. Still, it’s not their money.

If you’ve ever wondered why public works projects always end up costing ten times the original estimate, look no further.

This was based on an article in the Mail on Sunday two days before, which said: initial assessment by the Highways Agency costed the two signs at £190,000.

This was eventually reduced to £36,000.

Today, the Mail on Sunday has corrected the story:

Last week’s news story about Masham, Yorks, ‘The town that was wiped off the map’, said the Highways Agency had costed two road signs on the A1(M) at £190,000. In fact this was for nine signs on the motorway and roads to Masham.

The Highways Agency's statement on the issue says:

The Highways Agency’s position is that the initial estimate of approximately £190,000 was based on providing a full complement of nine signs on both carriageways and at junctions. This was regarded as too expensive and so the Highways Agency then consulted extensively with the community to develop a more-modest proposal, with a revised estimate for two signs on the northbound carriageway.

The cost estimate included design, road safety auditing of the scheme, manufacturing and installing the signs and posts, site supervision and temporary traffic management during the work.


  1. Bearing in mind two of Yorkshire's best brewery's are based in Masham, I don't think passing trade would have much of a problem....

  2. £30K for two signs is still a lot. That's the cost of buearcracy gone mad and excessive regulations.

    The cost breakdown would be something like
    £1K for the signs and posts,
    £14K for to design the signs,
    £1K to put in the planning,
    £3K to survey the site to ensure that the signs are located in the worst place possible,
    £9K to pay the services company to put in traffic management scheme,
    £2K profit margin

  3. Whilst the Mail on Sunday did print a correction to the story Littlejohn's article was just edited to remove the story surely the correction should be posted below his on-line column otherwise his regular readers will be left thinking that his original claims were correct.


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