March against metal thieves continues on Birmingham’s roads

By on 14/09/2012 in Cllr McKay, News

Amey and Birmingham City Council have become the first highways service in the country to use a specially designed gully grating as the war against metal thieves takes a new turn.

The partnership, which maintains and manages roads in Birmingham, has already seen the theft of the grates, which cover the open gullies at the side of the road, drop by three quarters where a special forensic identifier has been used.

But the drainage team wanted to go even further - and have now had a thief-proof cover designed especially for use in Birmingham - the first place in the UK to use this type of grate.

The cover combines the composite grate, made from a unique mix of recycled plastics, with a metal ductile frame which cannot be removed. The cover is completely lockable, and the composite part has no resale value.

Composite grates on their own have been used in Birmingham on selected roads since the beginning of the year. Drainage teams had used them to replace stolen metal ones and they were sealed in with a special silicon sealant.

However, due to the age and the differing nature of many of Birmingham's grates, they could not be used at all sites, as they would not fit all of the metal frames.

But the brand new gratings can be used on any one of Birmingham's 9,000 roads. The first 100 have been manufactured to the exact specifications of the Birmingham team, who are now in the process of installing them across the city.

The new frames have other benefits as well - the composite material means they are much quieter when cars drive over them.

Stolen gully covers were becoming an increasingly large problem in the city and their theft is a threat to all road users. An open gully presents a major risk to cyclists and pedestrians in particular, especially in the dark, as they can be very difficult to see. Vehicles can also be damaged if they hit an open gully.

In the three months prior to the launch of the forensic product, 32 gully grates were taken from roads in just five wards in the north of the city. In the three months since the product was used, just eight grates were reported as missing across the same area.

The forensic identifier, which saw thefts in the three worst hit wards in Birmingham drop from 32 in the three months prior to its launch, to eight in the three months after, leaves an indelible mark, visible under ultraviolet light, on the cover itself and anyone who touches it. Stolen covers can then be easily identified with the aid of UV light as the grease used by Amey and the City Council will contain a unique molecular code.

John Sunderland, Amey Business Director, said: “We are constantly striving for ever more innovative ways to improve the service we offer to the people who live, work and visit Birmingham. Our key priority is keeping people safe - and, as such, tackling this type of theft is paramount as open gully covers are extremely dangerous.

“This new type of cover is the latest way we are fighting back against the thieves, and Amey and Birmingham City Council will continue to work hard to address the issue and will do all we can to assist the police in bringing offenders to justice.”

Cllr James McKay, Cabinet Member for a Green, Safe and Smart city, said: “It is great to see that Birmingham is leading the way again - this time in fighting metal theft. These innovative covers should further drive down thefts and make our roads safer.”

Anyone who sees a missing gully cover or manhole cover, should report this immediately to Birmingham City Council's contact centre on 0121 303 6644.

Notes to Editors

•    Whenever a gully cover is reported missing to the Amey help centre, an incident response team will attend the site within one hour to make it safe. This usually involves putting barriers around the open gully. Drainage teams will then visit the site to replace the cover.

•    In 2010, Amey won the Birmingham Highways Maintenance and Management Service contract to manage and maintain the city's roads over the next 25 years. The contract will see a huge investment into the city's road network and Amey is working in partnership with Birmingham City Council to deliver the contract. The works include refurbishment and improvement of the city's roads, footways, bridges, tunnels, street lighting and traffic control systems.

•    Amey is a leading UK infrastructure services provider with more than 11,000 staff. The company works across three main markets – Inter Urban, Local Government and Built Environment, which are supported by our award-winning consultancy division. Amey delivers services in the highways, roads, schools, waste, rail, fleet solutions, workspace, street lighting, commercial, housing and aviation sectors.

For more information, contact Kara Bradley on 0121 200 5002 or email

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