Utility firms faced with providing five-year warranty
Utility companies could be made to repair any own shoddy workmanship if road reinstatements deteriorate within five years of being done.
Gas, water, electricity and telecoms companies already provide a two-year ‘guarantee’ on the patches they make to the roads they dig up.
However, ministers are now looking to more than double the guarantee period to five years.
They are also looking to introduce higher standards of workmanship and materials to ensure patches don’t start breaking up.
If the road does start to deteriorate within the extended timeframe then companies could be made to return to the site and put right the damage.
Launching a consultationon the proposals Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:
“Potholes are the biggest enemy for road users and this government is looking at all options to keep our roads in the best condition.
“Road surfaces can be made worse by utility companies, so imposing higher standards on repairs will help keep roads pothole-free for longer.
“The proposals also allow for new innovative surfacing to be used, such as asphalt with a high bitumen content that is easier to compact to the required density. This makes it less prone to potholing.”
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:
“There are three things here on which we can agree with the Transport Secretary. Potholes are the bane of road users lives. Utility companies might have to break the road, but they should be held to account for repairing it properly; and that means being open to the use of new materials and techniques.
“We would like to see the utility regulators taking an interest, given the economic harm we suffer from repeated roadworks and the responsibility utility companies should bear for the quality of their workmanship.
“A five year guarantee might cause the utility companies to sit up and take notice, but only if they believe local highway authorities will have the resource to monitor the state of repairs up to five years after they have been done.
“Of course, councils themselves frequently dig up the roads and drivers would expect their own works to be held to to the same exacting standards.”
In February the Department for Transport announced real-world tests of new road surfaces and technologies in eight areas to see which emerging innovations provide long-term solutions to improve journeys.
The department said:
“The £22.9 million Live Labs projects will be delivered by councils – including Kent, Staffordshire, Reading, Suffolk and Solihull and Birmingham – and if successful, could be adopted by other authorities.
“These schemes include expanding the test in Cumbria of plastic roads, using kinetic energy off Buckinghamshire roads to power lighting and using geothermal energy to keep car parks and in Central Bedfordshire bus stations from freezing over.”
Last year the government extended a Lane Rental Scheme already being operated in London and Kent to all English councils. The scheme sees utility companies charged up to £2,500 a day to dig up busy roads to help reduce the duration of roadworks and speed up traffic.
In the Budget in November, the Chancellor announced an additional £420 million for road maintenance for 2018 to 2019 financial year.
Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation
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Notes to editors:
The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.
The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at: www.racfoundation.org