UK begins new inspection regime with penalties for road works leaving potholes


Starting at the beginning of this month new regulations have come into force in the UK that mean utility companies must resurface roads to the best possible standard after street works, potentially preventing thousands of potholes from developing in the future.

Under the new “street works regime” utility companies will be assessed on the quality of their road repairs after carrying out street works, with the best companies inspected less and the worse-performing companies inspected more, based on their performance. Currently, about 30% of utility companies’ street works are inspected regardless of how well those street works are carried out.

As a result, companies that leave behind roads in poor condition could see 100% of their street works inspected. With highway authorities now charging £50 per defect inspection and a further £120 for follow-up inspections, poor performing companies will now be incentivised to perform better to avoid incurring high financial charges.

The move comes as the UK Government is investing over £5.5 billion by 2025 in highways maintenance and could help motorists save money on expensive repairs by protecting their vehicles from damage to tires or suspension. It will also ensure cyclists and motorbike riders can drive more safely and with greater peace of mind.

While the average failure rate for street works by utility companies is currently 9%, some of the worst performers are failing inspections by as much as 63%.

Other reforms in the inspection framework will help telecoms operators roll-out broadband nationwide and ease congestion by mandating better live updates on roadworks to help drivers plan ahead.

The move will focus on telecom companies in particular, which is the worst performing sector – responsible for nearly 13% of poor street work repairs. The measures will ensure these companies are checked more regularly until they can bring about noticeable improvements and leave roads in the condition that all road users deserve.

“Potholes not only cause expensive damage to vehicles but are potentially lethal to those on two wheels. Utility companies have a responsibility to ensure roads are properly repaired after carrying out essential maintenance, but unfortunately far too many roads are left in a substandard condition, says RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes. “Introducing new regulations to encourage repairs to be done to a higher standard first time around will benefit all road users.”

The measures will also help drivers plan ahead and ease congestion as utility companies and local authorities will now be required to provide the Department for Transport’s street manager service with more up to date and accurate data on live works, including at weekends.

Companies will be asked to provide information about when works start and stop at weekends and all local authorities must share start/stop information about their works. This will update sat navs and other apps so motorists are aware of where street works are and can avoid those areas – preventing traffic from building up.

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).