To set the scene … the hairpin bend at Clay Mills slip road (North), Burton-on-Trent, was the subject of a collision 20/03/2017 that saw a bill for more than £20,000 raised by Kier Highways. Enquires suggested there had been numerous incidents at the location. Repairs are necessarily required following these incidents and it is usual for the contractor, in this case Kier Highways Ltd (Area 9), to undertake reinstatement as ‘planned works’ which commonly see more than one set of works undertaken during an overnight repair attendance; sensible as, for example, costs, such as Traffic Management people and plant, can be shared.
In the case of ‘Clay Mills’ a request of National Highways resulted in the disclosure of the information we had requested; details of previous incidents and the associated images of the damage and repair. The Authority raised no issue with our request and the information was provided in the usual course of business. We noted 2 incidents before our event:
- 22/11/2016 (25677)
- 09/03/2017 (29199)
- 20/03/2017 (29640) – the claim we were considering
In respect of each, an image of the damage was provided and an image of the ‘completed’ repair. It appeared damage ‘A’ (22/11/2016) had been repaired (‘completed’) and that damage ‘B’ (09/03/2017) and ‘C’ (20/03/2017) had been repaired together, at the same time. The latter made sense, they were 11 days apart i.e. in close succession. But …
- Firstly, the £20,000+ demand for the repair arising out of ‘C’ saw no mention of ‘B’ being repaired at the same time. Such withholding of information is common; records concerning ‘planned works’, those done in conjunction with one another, is regularly undisclosed, yet the practice is the norm (HE General Counsel) though drivers, fleets, hauliers or their insures/agents appear unaware of this. There were clearly some costs to be shared, but how much?
Our mantra is simple ‘appropriate claims are paid an appropriate amount’. But in the absence of information, how to determine a reasonable cost for the damage ‘our’ driver caused?
- Secondly, it appeared, at first blush, someone had tampered with an image. The simplicity of this initial observation can be understood from the pictures we were provided:
22/11/2016 / 25677 (original image here). The image is said to be the condition after repairing the damage occasioned 22/11/2016:
09/03/2017 / 29199 (original image here). The image is said to be the condition after repairing the damage occasioned 22/11/2016:
Without the need for any ‘investigation’, a visual comparison of the above images caused concern:
- the images were of a different size with the 09/03/2017 image not appearing to be the same ratio
- the 21/11/2016 repair image displayed no date, the imprinted 05/04/2017 on the 09/03/2017 image was missing
The above could be explained away by the pictures being taken on different days, using different cameras. But as will be understood, from the below information, this was not the case; the images were taken on the same day, using the same camera. Furthermore, the initial visual inspection gave another clue all was not right:
- the cloud formations were near identical.
It therefore appeared the images were taken on the same day. It appeared whoever took or presented the 22/11/2016 / 25677 damage/repair image, did so to support the restoration having occurred. But why would this be taken 04/2017 and not sooner, before the 3nd incident 09/03/2017? To evidence the repair following the 11/2016 incident, an image would surely have been taken soon after. The 04/2017 images did not evidence the 11/2016 damage-repair but the 03/2017 damage-repair.
20/03/2017 / 29199 (original image here). The image is said to be the condition after repairing the damage occasioned 22/11/2016:
FoIA Request: The Alteration of Repair Images