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Consultation on Reducing Disruption from Utilties Road Works - Response of the Policy Group of the Scottish Branch of the Institute of Logistics and Transport.

The Institute of Logistics and Transport in Scotland (ILT) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the above mentioned Consultation Paper.

The ILT recognises the need for Utilities to maintain their equipment and accepts that a degree of disruption is a necessary part of that process. At the same time the public and transport and logistics related businesses need to be sure that they have every incentive to minimise such disruption. As an industry we benefit from the services provided by the utilities and they benefit from services provided by our members. It is not in the interests of either party to have costs increased unnecessarily. It is, nevertheless, of some concern that roads/bridge authorities incur direct costs which can be substantial for structures and for roads with special engineering difficulties and that these costs are not fully recoverable from the utility. The ILT, therefore, supports the thrust of the Executive's proposals. The comments below are based on the assumption of a review after three years.

Section 1
Paragraph 10
The ILT believe that all work carried out to rectify faulty reinstatements should bear the charge appropriate to the road affected. This should include work carried out by the road/bridge authority with the charges passed to the relevant undertaker.

Paragraph 11
The ILT does not believe that a change to the units of work should be introduced. It is simpler to use identical units for inspection and charging.

Paragraph 13
A charge per lane blocked, treating footpaths as lanes, would seem to be a reasonable refinement to introduce without introducing significant additional work either for the undertaker or the road/bridge authority. Similarly, a higher rate, say double, for remedial work would not be administratively burdensome but would be an incentive for Utilities to do the reinstatements to the correct standard in the first place.

Paragraph 16
First thoughts suggest that it is correct to use a two tier charge based on the existing definition of traffic sensitive and other roads, but see comments below. It is recognised that some modern full width residential streets are virtually unaffected by works. However, there are, within the non-sensitive category, 60MPH roads with awkward bends where works can severely affect local transport services. The comments on subsequent suggestions reflect this view of diversity within the non-sensitive category.

Paragraph 18
The ILT is with the Executive in wishing to keep the data handling and computation to a minimum. However, a relatively simple computer programme can handle relatively complex data. The units of work are relatively complicated already, and the addition of number of lanes affected and road classification (Trunk, A, B, C, U) instead of traffic sensitive or not will not add to the data input. Nevertheless, the ILT is for the two-tier system at this stage.

Paragraph 21
It is the view of the ILT that there should be no prescribed period for any road. The Utilities must be encouraged to plan accurately for all work. The value of the data bank of reasonable times for different categories of work would be diluted by separate treatment for two categories of road.

Paragraph 22
In relation to the cost of most work, the penalties proposed are very low. These penalties are not paying for the disruption that occurs during the planned period, they are penalties for over-running and should reflect this. If it is assumed that 2000 vehicles per day are delayed by an average of 5 minutes each at a cost to the vehicle user of £20 per hour, the delay cost is in excess of £3000. This would seem to be a more reasonable figure for traffic sensitive roads, with £300 for other roads.

Paragraph 25
The ILT would be pleased to see the system proposed result in no over-running roadworks, but the jury must be out on this one until the charging regime is in place for some time. It has to be recognised that the present system results in costs to road/bridge authorities, not all of which are recovered from the undertakers.

A separate account for the costs and revenues associated with policing the New Roads and Street Works Act would seem to be obligatory. Since road/bridge authorities have accounting systems embracing many different aspects it would be surprising if this was a problem. This account must include inspection costs and costs associated with the provision of information, drawings, etc. which are particularly associated with bridges and structures.

Since it is obviously impossible to compensate those suffering the congestion directly, the ILT would prefer to see surplus revenue, if any, retained by authorities to improve local roads. Those who nave been delayed may then benefit indirectly, albeit at a later date. It seems unlikely that such surpluses will be significant, given the costs of ensuring adequate compliance with the existing and proposed clauses of the Act. There are precedents for Local Authorities raising revenue from amenity facilities. The most direct comparison would appear to be with the application of building control regulations and a similar approach to fees/expenses for recovering costs seems appropriate.

Paragraph 26
The ILT agrees that the same rules should be applied to emergency works.

Paragraph 27
The response to paragraph 10 applies.

Paragraph 31
It does not seem unreasonable to expect undertakers to plan work in some detail, including start date and duration. It is not only the road blockage issue that makes this an obvious requirement. There will be the utilisation of men and equipment and the delivery/removal of materials to plan for. It is therefore the ILT's view that the 7 days grace for starting work should be removed. There would be no objection to an appropriate contingency allowance included in the planned time. Extension requests should incur the same penalties as an overrun unless it is demonstrated to the satisfaction of the road/bridge authority that unforeseen circumstances have arisen. The arbitration procedure for other disputes arising from the Act (Section 158) can be utilised for disputes in respect of extensions.

Paragraph 33
The ILT agrees with the termination of the Daily Whereabouts List in the event of the Section 133 scheme as proposed by the ILT being introduced.

Paragraph 34
The ILT agrees with this proposal in principle. It is noted, however, that the legislation would then affect many more organisations, for example, every jobbing builder. This could increase the cost of ensuring compliance beyond reasonable levels. It may, therefore, be better to leave this problem for local police forces to deal with as now in cases where serious obstruction occurs.

Section 2
Given that Section 133 powers have yet to be implemented it seems premature to consider new Powers at this stage. A review of the revenue/cost situation has been suggested after 3 years and the ILT is in favour of this. This would be the time to look at new powers.

Paragraph 37
If, 3 years on, further powers are necessary it is assumed that fully operational lane rental processes will be available having been used for some time on other schemes. The start-up costs would, therefore, be low. The ILT still has the give and take view with the utilities. However, if it is still the case that roads/bridge authorities are not recovering costs of providing technical support for works on structures and streets with special engineering difficulties, then further powers will be required. As far as surplus revenue is concerned, the views expressed in paragraph 25 apply.

Paragraph 38
As indicated in paragraph 25, separate accounting for New Roads and Street Works Activities seems essential, given the range of activities involved (inspection, provision of drawings, approvals, etc.) See above for the surplus revenue issue.

Section 3
Paragraph 42
The ILT does not at this stage see alternative forms of charging worth considering. It is accepted that some level of disruption is necessary to ensure that we receive the services that we expect from the utilities both as individuals and as representatives of business. The implementation of Section 133 powers may prove a sufficient incentive to minimise disruption. This may require the roads authorities to take a few test cases to arbitration to establish reasonable times for different categories of work to emphasise to the utilities that they are serious about reducing congestion. The ILT hopes that all roads/bridge authorities will avail themselves of the new powers in order to help the public and our members.

Paragraph 43
Given the poor level of adherence to acceptable standards in reinstatements, the ILT is not in favour of further voluntary codes of practice. Indeed, if anything, mandatory standards are required to ensure that all users of roads and footpaths are not put at risk by sub-standard work. This could result in less rectification work and, as a consequence, less disruption. The standards may well have to be reviewed, including the time limit for insisting on rectification. It is well known that it can take some time for sub-standard compaction and sealing to become apparent, both of which can cause deterioration of surfaces well outside the initially disturbed area. It is not only road users who are put at risk by poor quality work but also the services of the utilities themselves. Impacts from high axle load vehicles can damage cables and pipes in the road. It would, therefore, seem to be in the long-term interests of the utilities to ensure that reinstatements are carried out to a high standard first time. If the present proposals do not result in an improvement, it is suggested that the Executive enables the powers granted under Section 137 of the Act (Payment for long term damage) after the 3-year review period.

Draft Regulatory Proposals
The ILT favours option (c) for the reasons given above. It recognises that it is impractical for the organisation causing the disruption to compensate directly those who experience the inconvenience. It is believed, however, that implementing Section 133 may provide an incentive to persuade undertakers to do the work to time and to the appropriate quality. This will result in fewer days of disruption. A suggestion that the next step is implementing Section 137 may help to focus minds in this respect.

It is certainly logical to make use of the expertise built up by "Susiephone" in implementing the system. There is, of course, a cost in running this system and fees from those causing road works, including the roads/bridge authorities themselves, should at least make operation of the system cost neutral.

Other Issues
Since the New Roads and Street Works Act was implemented further legislation has been introduced which has a bearing on road works. The Construction Design and Maintenance Regulations (CDM) are a particular case. These will have a bearing on the conduct of undertakers with respect to a number of clauses in the Act, notably Sections 124,126, 138-140. Adherence to CDM should be beneficial, in the long term in reducing the risk of disruptions. Virtually all utilities will be deemed to be competent under CDM and will, therefore, be required to produce "as built" drawings. The existence of such drawings will reduce the "secondary damage" where for historic reasons adequate location drawings of utilities do not exist. This is a significant cause of work overruns. Whether the inspection process is to be reviewed or not the ILT suggests that the Executive encourages random checks as to the existence of "as built" drawings and ensures that these should be available though "Susiephone" or that "Susiephone" can point to where such drawings can be located. This should reinforce Section 138 of the Act.

The ILT is concerned that road and transport authorities recover costs from Utilities. Sections 122 (Roads with Special Engineering Difficulties) and Section 147 (Bridges, etc.) are areas where roads/bridge authorities can incur significant costs in dealing with utilities. Local Authorities may also have to provide temporary bus services in the case of road closures. The ILT would encourage the Executive to ensure that the Act allows for adequate cost recovery in these cases and in other cases where the "innocent party" incurs costs to allow another to enjoy a benefit under the Act.

 

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