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Utility companies to face fines for poor quality road repairs

Pothole

The Government is introducing new measures to penalise utility companies where poor-quality street works leave potholes on the country’s roads.

A new performance-based inspections regime will be introduced, where the worst performing utility companies whose road works fail to meet strict standards will face financial penalties.

These companies will go on to be inspected more regularly by local authorities to ensure their work meets rigorous criteria and they leave roads in a good condition.

While the majority of companies carry out street works to a high standard and pass inspections, say ministers, 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.

The Government plans are also aimed at helping the rollout of broadband nationwide by telecoms operators and easing congestion by mandating live updates on roadworks are improved.  

Companies will now be required to provide local authorities and the Department for Transport’s street manager service with more up to date and accurate data on live road works.

Companies will be asked to provide information about when works start and stop at weekends and all local authorities must send start/stop information about their works.

This will update sat navs and other apps so motorists are aware of where road works are happening and can avoid those areas.

Roads minister Baroness Vere said: “I’m sure all drivers have felt frustrated by the potholes we see on some of our roads, which can damage our vehicles and make journeys a misery.

“That’s why we’re changing the law to ensure companies won’t be able to get away with poor quality road works for much longer.

“The changes we’re bringing in will also help to keep motorists updated with live traffic updates – easing congestion.

“This is a clear victory for motorists and all road users who will be able to enjoy smoother, safer journeys.”

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes says that, while roadworks are frustrating at the best of times, it’s even worse when utility companies leave roads in a sub-standard state when the temporary traffic lights are finally removed.

“Poorly carried out reinstatement work very often leads to road surfaces breaking down, unnecessarily causing potholes much to the annoyance of drivers,” he said.

“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.”

Current regulations allow highway authorities to check 30% of a utility company’s total number of inspection units and the charge is a flat rate, regardless of how well utility companies comply with standards and safety requirements.

Authorities can put restrictions in place for up to three years after resurfacing a road or after new construction which prevent utilities carrying out further works. Amendments will allow exemptions from these restrictions for new customer connections.

The reforms will come into force in April 2023. 

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