On 1 April 2023, new regulations governing how local authorities inspect reinstatements carried out by utility companies will come into force. In a nutshell, poor performers will be inspected more often, with each inspection paid for, while good performers will receive fewer inspections – and hence pay less.
According to Government statistics, failure rates among utility companies vary hugely. The average failure rate is 9%, with the best-performing utility companies achieving just 2% failure. However, the worst performing utility company is failing a shameful 63% of its inspections.
The new regime will mean that, from 1 April, utility companies who failed to meet standards for less than 15% of inspections over the previous 12 months will be inspected for 30% of their ‘inspection units’ – the calculation of which has been simplified so it links to works duration. Those with a failure rate of 15% or more will be inspected for 50% of their units.
Reinstatements are assessed against the Specification for Reinstatement of Openings in the Highway (SROH) version 4, published in 2021, and against safety standards. The data will be stored in the Department for Transport’s (DfT’s) Street Manager digital system which utility companies, road authorities and contractors have been using since July 2020, and which will be used to assess current failure rates.
The introduction of the new regulations, The Streetworks (Inspection Fees) (England) Regulations 2022, came about as a result of feedback received during the setting up of Street Works and ongoing work to improve the reinstatement inspection regime. The DfT was also keen to improve the standard of reinstatements because the number of them is set to burgeon due to Project Gigabit – the Government’s programme for delivering high-speed broadband to more homes and businesses.
Currently works by telecoms companies accounts for one-third of utility works, according to the Government. This is set to treble over the next few years.
Cracks and potholes along the edges of trench reinstatements are, unfortunately, a common site. The main reasons for trench reinstatements to fail are a lack of adhesion between the new material and the existing road surface and too high a proportion of voids in the material used for reinstatement.
The SROH requires utility companies to return to fix any such problems up to two years after the works were carried out. The challenge for local authorities is that the problems may not start to show, or be logged, within that timeframe, leaving the council to foot the bill for remediation.
Thermal Road Repairs’ system has been deployed many times to fix failing trench reinstatements. In fact, one of our earliest success was when Electricity North West used it to rehabilitate a 6 mile-long trench which had been overbanded with the wrong material – and went on to win an award for the carbon savings they had achieved.
We checked in on Electricity North West’s repair six years later and it was still going strong. Because the TRR technology heats up the material around a crack or pothole to a controlled extent, before adding a small amount of new asphalt mix, the repair is seamless. And, since the hot material – both new and old – is compacted that can reduce the air voids too if needed.
More recently TRR has developed a specialist heater, 0.5m by 1m, aimed at trench reinstatements old and new. Some of our utility company customers have begun to deploy our technology to get reinstatements ‘right first time’, effectively removing the joints at the edges of the trenches so that there is no weak point which could later fail. And from 1 April 2023, that move will not only save money because it removes return visits, it will be saving money on inspections too.
Thermal Road Repairs is a green technology company which supplies systems to improve the quality, cost and time efficiency of road repairs and paving – at a far lower environmental cost than traditional methods. It invests significantly in R&D, to create new technologies and to continuously improve existing ones.
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