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Response to Consultation on The Regulation of Utility Company Road Works by The Scottish Policy Group of The Institute of Logistics and Transport

Overview
The Institute of Logistics and Transport in Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment on the above Consultation Paper.

The Institute of Logistics and Transport 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 Institute of Logistics and Transport, therefore, supports the thrust of the Executives proposals.

The Institute of Logistics and Transport responded to the previous consultation in 2002 and it is disappointed that this did not result in the implementation of the earlier proposals. In particular, it was felt that implementing Section 133 powers of the New Roads and Street Works Act and lengthening the period for the inspection of reinstatements would have gone some way to improving the performance of undertakers. The Institute of Logistics and Transport was also concerned that road authorities were unable to fully recover costs, notably related to structures and to roads with special engineering difficulties.

Paragraph 26
Observation indicates that risk and congestion occur for all classes of road user because of non-adherence to the sections of the New Roads and Street Works Act relating to signage and to the quality of reinstatements. This is frequently caused by the use of poor quality contractors subject to inadequate supervision by the client. Along with breaches of the provisions of the New Roads and Street Works Act frequently go breaches of Health and Safety Legislation and the Construction, Design and Maintenance Regulations.

Paragraph 27
The Institute of Logistics and Transport endorses the principles contained in paragraph 20 where major works are to be undertaken, for example the renewal of water pipes over a significant area. It is felt that existing procedures are adequate for routine work at isolated locations but there should be a database giving details of the duration of common classes of work. This would allow a fair time to be agreed for work before penalties were imposed (as suggested in our earlier submission) and would provide a base for the arbitration process. The Institute of Logistics and Transport would expect the arbitration procedures set out in the New Roads and Street Works Act to be fully utilised.

The Institute of Logistics and Transport believes that the specification for reinstatements does not allow sufficient time to judge whether the quality of reinstatements is adequate. A two year time period would be more appropriate to assess whether sealing and compaction are sufficient for the traffic levels experienced by the road user. The Institute of Logistics and Transport endorses the principle of Forward Plans, with undertakers given possession opportunities to carry out works in concert rather than in sequence.

The Institute of Logistics and Transport has previously supported the implementation of Section 133 of the Act and continues to believe its enactment would be helpful. Any income received from penalties should aim to make operation of the system self-financing with any surplus retained by the Local Authority for their own road maintenance programmes. Penalties should apply automatically in the case of repairs to reinstatements.

The Institute of Logistics and Transport recognises the possibility of undertakers overestimating times for work. The database referred to above will assist in controlling this aspect. The arbitration process should also operate on behalf of the Local Authority when they believe excessive times are being sought by an undertaker. The Institute of Logistics and Transport believes that the New Roads and Street Works Act Codes of Practice should be statutory. However, the offences should probably be civil rather than criminal and the level of fine raised to ensure that prosecution is seen as a deterrent and has a greater likelihood of success. The Institute of Logistics and Transport will leave others to comment on training issues.

As stated above, the penalties should be set at a level that achieves at least self-financing and are high enough to be a deterrent. Local Authorities should also be allowed to recover costs where undertakers use their services in connection with work on structures or on roads with special engineering difficulties. As indicated above, the arbitrator should be permitted to consider cases where the Local Authority believes that undertakers are seeking excessive times for work.

Paragraph 28
The Institute of Logistics and Transport supports the use of the performance indicators outlined, but would not wish these to impose undue burdens either on the undertaker or on the Local Authority.

Paragraph 29
Many members of the Institute of Logistics and Transport and the organisations they work for make extensive use of Global Positioning Systems and Geographical Information Systems. This includes Local Authorities. One of the problems faced by undertakers is the quality of the data relating to buried services whether their own or those of other utilities. The Construction, Design and Maintenance Regulations now require as built drawings to be produced. If such information is made widely available to the undertakers, it will have the potential to reduce substantially the incidence of secondary damage, which is a significant cause of works over-running. The Institute of Logistics and Transport believes that this is an area where pilot work may be worthwhile in the interests both of the wider transport community and the undertakers.

 

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