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Task force to tackle disruption caused by utility companies welcomed

John Furey, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment

Surrey County Council has welcomed the formation of a national task force aimed at combating disruption and damage caused by utility company roadworks.

The Local Government Association revealed it formed the group after research showed the problem has cost taxpayers almost half-a-billion pounds over the past two years – the equivalent of filling eight million potholes.

John Furey, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment, said: “This is a welcome move and is an issue Surrey County Council is also looking into. We’re currently working on implementing a permit scheme for utility firms working on the roads and we’re also seeing how we can better co-ordinate the work that takes place.

“I understand that utility companies need to carry out essential road works, whether that is on gas, water, electricity or other services, but by better co-ordinating when they do it, we can reduce disruption.

“We can also better protect Surrey’s roads and reduce potholes by making sure utility firms repair our roads properly after they have dug them up. We’re about to embark on a £100 million project to rebuild 310 miles of Surrey’s most pothole prone roads, so we must ensure this work is not undermined by utility repairs.”

Please find the below the Local Government Association’s press release on the new task force.

A new taskforce comprising councils, utility companies and business representatives has been set up to try and reduce the cost and disruption caused by roadworks.

It follows new research which found contractors poorly resurfacing trenches after digging up roads cost taxpayers almost half-a-billion pounds over the past two years – the equivalent of filling eight million potholes.

Last year 20 per cent of their works were not up to standard meaning they had to be redone properly at the expense of local councils, causing more disruption and delays. This was up 3 per cent on 2011 and over the two years cost £435 million.

Another problem is the same stretch of road being dug up by different companies in quick succession, rather than carrying out their work in the same trench.

As well as frustrating motorists, unnecessary works can cost small businesses thousands of pounds a week in lost trade.

The new taskforce was established following a roadworks summit called by the Local Government Association and attended by Transport Minister Norman Baker, Transport Select Committee Chair Louise Ellman, highways bosses, utility company executives and business leaders.

It will look at how new technology for recording roadworks can be used to better coordinate projects and monitor contractor performance, seek ways to improve communication between contractors and local businesses and help affected traders claim compensation where appropriate. The summit also resulted in a government-funded project to improve the quality of roadworks.

Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said:

“Most roadworks are essential and in many cases carried out efficiently and to a good standard. However, all too often the rush to get on to the next job leaves in its wake patches of shoddy resurfacing. Not only is the taxpayer left to foot the bill to do the resurfacing properly, it means needless frustration for motorists and thousands of pounds in lost trade for small businesses.

“Thousands of hours of roadworks disruption – closed roads, blocked pavements, temporary traffic lights, noisy drilling, restricted parking – are totally avoidable if only contractors did the job properly and companies better coordinated their works.

“For many years people have been complaining about these problems but very little has changed. Hopefully now that councils, utility companies and businesses have agreed to work together something will be done so the disruption and frustration of motorists and traders is kept to a minimum.”

NOTES TO EDITORS

Figures on the cost to councils of poorly resurfaced roadworks are calculated from the 2013 and 2012 ALARM Surveys.

In December the LGA, working with the Association of Convenience Stores, published the research report ‘Holes in our pockets? How utility streetworks are damaging local growth’. It found:

• 57 per cent of shops have had roadworks nearby over the past three years.
• 72 per cent of these were negatively affected, with issues including forced closure, delivery delays, reduced footfall and reduced sales.
• 31 per cent say roadworks reduced their footfall by at least a quarter with, at worst, some losing about 2,500 customers a week.
• Half say they lost at least 10 per cent of sales with, at worst, some losing about £7,500 a week.

Highways authorities (upper-tier councils) are responsible for nine out of every 10 miles of road – about 225,000 miles throughout the UK. England and Wales has 174 highways authorities. The Highways Agency is responsible for motorways and major A roads, while Transport for London is responsible for arterial trunk roads in London.

For more information on the new technology for recording roadworks, visit – https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-technology-to-cut-road-works-red-tape.

The extra funding to improve roadworks quality is part of the Department for Transport’s Highways Management Efficiency Programme.

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