Thursday 1 June 2023
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New rules to fine utility companies that cause potholes

Regulations to inspect utility company street works and assess the quality of their road repairs.

  • New regulations to crack down on utility companies causing “pothole” pain
  • Faster and higher quality road repairs to reduce vehicle damages, saving drivers time and money
  • New measures will also help speed up fibre broadband roll-out and ease congestion, allowing drivers to plan ahead while helping to grow the economy

People up and down the country will benefit from smoother journeys, reduced congestion, and faster broadband rollout as the Government clamps down on utility companies for leaving potholes behind after carrying out street works.

From 1 April new regulations will come into force for a performance-based inspection regime to ensure utility companies resurface roads to the best possible standard after street works, potentially preventing thousands of potholes from developing in the future.

The move comes as the Government is investing over £5.5 billion by 2025 in highways maintenance and could help motorists save money on expensive repairs by protecting their vehicles from damage to tyres or suspension. It will also ensure cyclists and motorbike riders can drive more safely and with greater peace of mind.

Currently, about 30% of utility companies’ street works are inspected regardless of how well those street works are carried out. Under the new “street works regime” utility companies will be assessed on the quality of their road repairs after carrying out street works, with the best companies inspected less and the worse-performing companies inspected more, based on their performance.

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As a result, companies that leave behind roads in poor condition could see 100% of their street works inspected. With highway authorities now charging £50 per defect inspection and a further £120 for follow-up inspections, poor-performing companies will now be incentivised to perform better to avoid incurring high financial charges.

While the average failure rate for street works by utility companies is currently 9%, some of the worst performers are failing inspections by as much as 63%.

Other reforms in the inspection framework will help telecom operators roll-out broadband nationwide and ease congestion by mandating better live updates on roadworks to help drivers plan ahead.

The move will focus on telecom companies in particular, which is the worst-performing sector – responsible for nearly 13% of poor street work repairs. The measures will ensure these companies are checked more regularly until they can bring about noticeable improvements and leave roads in the condition that all road users deserve.

Companies will be asked to provide information about when works start and stop at weekends and all local authorities must share start/stop information about their works. This will update sat navs and other apps so motorists are aware of where street works are and can avoid those areas – preventing traffic from building up.

As one-third of all street works are carried out by telecom operators, the plans will also help speed up broadband rollout across the country by removing restrictions on works for new customer connections.  The changes will mean work can be done more quickly, but to the right standards in terms of reinstatements.

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