ENGINEERS working on Hampshire's roads and pavements say they are being subjected to verbal abuse and threats of physical violence.

The county council has reported a 16% increase in the number of incidents involving aggressive behaviour towards its highways staff.

One victim said he was threatened after telephoning a landowner to discuss unauthorised work that had taken place on a public road.

He said the landowner "went from being courteous to incredibly abusive in an instant".

The engineer added: "He offered to meet me so he could 'kick my head in' and stated that if he ever saw me, or any other county council officer near his land, he would do the same."

A senior manager added: "I went to a site to look into the illegal use of highway land.

"A man came out, saw me and started to verbally threaten me. When I tried to drive away he blocked the road, continuing the abuse."

Now the county council is urging people to respect its highways workforce.

Cllr Russell Oppenheimer, executive member for highways operations, said: “I've been profoundly shocked at recent reports where crews have been the victims of someone’s frustration and road rage.

“No-one should be subjected to abuse or threats of any kind while they're working hard to repair and maintain our highways and footways.

"Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and to return home safely."

During the height of the pandemic reported cases of abuse towards highways staff rose by 16%, despite lower traffic flows as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.

Cllr Oppenheimer said: "Our highways teams keep Hampshire moving, 24 hours a day, seven days a week regardless of whatever the weather throws at them.

"They deserve our respect and appreciation for the complex and sometimes dangerous work they do day-in, day-out."

Cllr Oppenheimer said the tasks carried out by highway engineers enabled people to get to work, kept families connected and allowed the emergency services to reach incidents quickly.

He added: "Verbal abuse, violence and threats or aggression cannot be accepted or tolerated.

"Any instances will be reported to the police and we would ask residents who witness such behaviour to do the same.

"They should use the non-emergency 101 number, unless there is a threat to life in which case the emergency 999 number should be used.”