Digging up footpaths for cable laying may be enforced to reduce congestion

Utility companies will have to dig up footpaths instead of roads ‘where possible and practical’ when laying cables, as part of a proposal to cut roadworks and congestion.

A consultation document from the Department for Transport states it wants to introduce a new condition to the National Joint Utilities Group’s guidelines on using underground equipment.

Published in 2013, it advised that equipment should go under footpaths, footways or verges ‘where practical’ to cut any impact on traffic.

A new condition has been added to reinforce and support it, saying that permits for works should state: “Unless the Permit Authority consents to the placing of apparatus under the carriageway including to assist with the roll-out of national infrastructure projects or to enable urban greening and street trees, it is a condition of this permit that activities placing new apparatus underground should, where possible and practical, be placed under the footway, footpath or verge.”

Though proposed, no timeframe has been stated as to when this new condition would be enforced if approval is given.

In the document’s foreword, transport minister Michael Ellis says: “We estimate that the English local road network is subject to around 2.5 million roadworks each year. These can cause significant disruption to people’s journeys and congestion, which we estimate costs the economy around £4bn.

“The government is working with local authorities and utility companies on a range of measures to help ensure that roadworks are managed and coordinated as effectively as they can be, to reduce the time it takes to carry out works, return the road to the required standard and to make accurate and up-to-date information available to road users.”

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