Plan to enforce tougher pothole rules for utility companies

Utility companies could face tougher rules over roadworks which cause potholes in England.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation proposing that firms must fix potholes which form within five years of work that requires breaking and repairing a road.

The current guarantee only lasts for two years.

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.”

A trade association representing gas, electricity, water, sewage and telecommunications companies said figures show the roadworks performance of the utilities sector is “significantly higher” than local authorities and it is not necessary to increase the pothole guarantee to five years.

Street Works UK chief executive Clive Bairsto went on: “The Government should not take forward proposals unless they are supported by a strong evidence base.

“Utilities and their contractor partners play a vital role in delivering and maintaining vital infrastructure which powers the economy, and it is crucial that any new regulations are proportionate.”

The DfT is also proposing to allow innovative road surfacing techniques to be used which make carriageways less prone to potholes, such as asphalt with a high bitumen content that is easier to compact to the required density.

One in five local roads in England and Wales is in a poor condition and the frequency of road resurfacing has declined, according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance.

Roadwork stock
The Department for Transport has launched a consultation proposing that utility companies must fix potholes which form within five years of work that requires breaking and repairing a road (Fiona Hanson/PA)

The AA has called for learner drivers to have to prove they can spot potholes to pass the driving test.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, described potholes as “the bane of road users’ lives”.

He accepted that some work by utility companies does require digging up a road surface but insisted “they should be held to account for repairing it properly”.

He added: “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.”

Last year, the DfT announced that councils across England could introduce lane rental schemes where utility companies are charged up to £2,500 a day to dig up busy roads to reduce the duration of roadworks.

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