With broadband installation ramping up around the country, the Government is trying to tackle the problem of poor trench reinstatements after utilities have been installed.
Last month (MAY), the Department of Transport (DoT) announced that it was going to change the law next April so that utility companies who repeatedly carry out poor reinstatements would be penalised. The new regime will see companies who have a poor track record being inspected more frequently by local authorities, and receiving more fines if their work is found to be below par.
According to the DoT, the worst offending utility company has failed a shocking 63% of street works inspections – compared to an average failure rate of 9%. Trench reinstatements can fail because the material used to infill them has not been properly compacted, so that it settles after a while. Joints are another weak point; if not properly executed they can widen into potholes over time.
In the same announcement, the Government also said that it wanted to make it easier for telecoms companies to carry out broadband installations by removing some of the restrictions that prevent them from carrying out works or slow works down. However, there were no details about what that might mean in practice. Currently telecoms companies are responsible for one-third of streetworks.
One of the ideas under consideration, after a consultation last year , is flexi-permits that cover a number of standard, minor works in an area for a certain period of time. The DoT also said that utility companies will have to provide more up-to-date information to its digital Street Manager service which, in turn, would be provided to Sat Nav and map apps.
Local authorities are often left to sort out problems left behind by utility company works. Although the Specification for the Reinstatement of Openings in Highways (SROH) says that utility companies must return to fix any failure that occur within two years of a reinstatement, problems may not be spotted in time, or failures may happen just outside that period.
Thermal Road Repairs equipment is often deployed by utility companies and councils to rectify faulty trench reinstatements. Because it heats all the material in and around the trench, the material can be recompacted and the joints disappear because the material all melts into one. For that reason, some utility companies are using the technology to get the reinstatements right first time.
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