New inspections regime to put utility companies under spotlight

13/05/2022
Dominic Browne

Utility companies could be hit with more financial penalties for poor quality reinstatement works, under a planned law change announced by the Department for Transport.

Following a consultation last year on changes to road work permits and the Street Manager digital platform to log roadworks, ministers announced plans to move forward with reforms that will come into force in April 2023.

After reviewing the responses to the consultation, the Department for Transport has agreed to:

  • use performance to calculate the number of sample inspections of reinstatements carried out each year, so that poor performers are inspected more frequently
  • amend the way an inspection unit is calculated
  • consolidate the fee that needs to be paid for reinspections of reinstatements that have failed a previous inspection
  • require up to date information on traffic management and lane closures to be sent to Street Manager and then published
  • include notifications about Section 58 and Section 58A/Schedule 3A road restrictions in Street Manager which will require: work start and stop notices to be sent within two hours at weekends.

Highway authorities will also have to submit start and stop notices for their works, so that up-to-date information is available via Street Manager.

Under the new 'performance-based inspections regime' utility companies whose road works fail to meet standards will face financial penalties and go on to be inspected more regularly by local authorities.

The Department for Transport said utility companies are on average 'failing 9% of the inspections that are carried out, and the worst performing utility company is failing a significant 63% of its inspections'.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: 'The plague of potholes is the menace of our roads. That’s why I’m ensuring companies who create them and leave roads in a poor state can be held to account more easily – protecting drivers from unfair repair costs.'

RAC Head of Roads Policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: 'Poorly carried out reinstatement work very often leads to road surfaces breaking down, unnecessarily causing potholes much to the annoyance of drivers.

'Introducing a performance-based inspections scheme should force utilities companies to raise their game and should ultimately lead to smoother and safer journeys for all road users.'

Ministers added that the plans would also help telecom operators roll out broadband nationwide through exemptions to restrictions on works for new customer connections.

One third of all road works are carried out by telecom operators. The Government will allow exemptions to restrictions that prevent or slow down these companies from applying to carry out necessary works.

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