Tackling street works

One of the worst features of past highways mismanagement in the UK has been the practice of putting water pipes, gas mains, phone and broadband wires and electricity cables down the middle of busy roads and covering them with large amounts of concrete and tarmac.

The Highways authority has to grant access to the utility undertakers to close all or part of the road, dig it up and repair, monitor or replace the pipe or wire. Parliament has tried to impose some discipline, giving the Highways Authorities the power to schedule the work, to time limit it and to fine the contractor for non performance. Of course access has to be granted immediately if there is a gas burst or a water mains leak where safety is paramount. There are roads that are designated sensitive where the Authority can demand that repairs and replacements be done off peak or at night owing to how busy and crucial the road is.

I have urged utilities and Councils to put new networks and replacement networks into verges, under pavements or away from main  roads, preferably in accessible conduits so there  will be no need in future to drill through layers of tarmac and concrete to find your particular pipe or cable without skewering someone else’s. Wokingham Borough tell me they are doing this with new developments. It would be good if universally we were starting on a long work out to get rid of this problem.

In  the meantime we have to manage a situation where most cables and pipes are under main  roads. So today I ask how should Councils manage the demands for access to repair and replace? Do they need any new legislative powers? Is the balance right between the needs of the utilities and the needs of the users? Should we be tougher and demand mpre off peak working?


  1. Lifelogic
    January 24, 2020

    Certainly the financial incentive should be such that they are under pressure to do the work quickly and work 24 hours a day to get it finished on busy roads. So often the delays to motorists cost the government nothing so they really do not care if the job is a bit cheaper to do slowly that is what they do.

    On larger roads might not some temporary ramp up and an overpass be possible (perhaps only for the cars and lighter vehicles) with the works going on below this overpass? It then being moved down the road on to the next section needing works. A few permanent over or underpasses all over the place could make a huge difference to many delays at various pinch points.

    Putting all the motoring taxes on to mileage and charging higher rates at rush hours would be a good plan. The danger would be that they would charge per mile on top of all the other taxes.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 24, 2020

      Bridges or tunnels rather than train level crossings for example.

      1. Hope
        January 24, 2020

        JR, legislation introduced in 1998 should have made local authorities do as you claim. They have resoundingly failed Year on year with no incentive or punishment to make them do so. Developers will try to avoid as much cost as possible when building large developments or urban ghettos. Make local authorities do their jobs and if necessary give them extra powers to force developers to making adequate provision putting long term safety design before profit.

        The inspectorate body for Local authorities is beyond useless and tory gov ministers equally useless. Tax tax tax without any improvement.

    2. Ian@Barkham
      January 24, 2020

      Fuel duty was always the mileage charge and is approx 50% of the pump price with VAT on top of that.

    3. Lifelogic
      January 24, 2020

      You can build quite a few under and over passes for the £130 billion or so easily saved by cancelling HS2 and Hinckley C.

      Another thing that could speed up train journeys would be to stop them stopping at all those stations. With modern technology one could easily design driverless train carriages that set off with passengers one from station & gets up to speed and then joins up to the train as it passes without it stopping and a similar one that detached and and drops people off. Without these stops many train journey times could be halved. Similarly driverless cars might join up to become a sort of road train for part of a journey then split up to go to their final destinations. It will all doubtless come quite soon.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 24, 2020

        This decreased in journey times without the need for the trains to actually travel any faster. High speed trains without the high speeds.

      2. Fred H
        January 24, 2020

        ‘it will all doubtless come’ – not a chance.

        1. Lifelogic
          January 24, 2020

          It surely will. Driverless cars, cars that form a convoy then break up again and why not similar things for trains. All this plus many other clever innovations too. It is only a question of time. We already have very similar systems in factories and warehouses.

    4. jerry
      January 24, 2020

      @LL; “Putting all the motoring taxes on to mileage and charging higher rates at rush hours would be a good plan.

      Road pricing in other words, so were are you going to site all the pay booths, or are you suggesting a China style state tracking system for motorists, not only know were you want but how fast you travelled and were, at least it would get rid of the traffic speed cameras…

      …and to think some Tories were worried about the impact upon civil liberties from the last Labour govts idea of a national ID card!

      1. Lifelogic
        January 24, 2020

        They know anyway with their licence plate road cameras and from the mobile phone records.

        1. jerry
          January 24, 2020

          Mr Lifeilogical, ANPR cameras, nor cell phone positioning triangulation, is nowhere comparable to what you suggest as a solution to road congestion, real-time and place monitoring via GPS!

      2. steve
        January 24, 2020


        “…and to think some Tories were worried about the impact upon civil liberties from the last Labour govts idea of a national ID card!”

        Ah, but you can’t do a damn thing these days without having to prove your ID.

        If you live off grid – therefore no utility bills, if you don’t drive – therefore no photo ID driving licence, and if you never go abroad – therefore no passport, you’re pretty much stymied. You can’t even open a bank account.

        ID cards by stealth, and treated like aliens in our own country.

    5. Sir Joe Soap
      January 24, 2020

      Simple clear signposting a couple of miles back is helpful. Also don’t do repairs on two parallel roads at once.

    6. Alan Jutson
      January 24, 2020


      “Putting all the motoring charges on mileage…….”

      Easiest method is to simply put the tax 0n fuel, no need then for new collection services, complicated monitoring, toll reading equipment, VED, etc etc.

      Then people simply pay for what they use, you choose a gas guzzler, or a small efficient car, its your choice.
      If you do not travel many miles a year but want to do it in comfort and style then up to you, if you want to own multiple cars for whatever reason (you can only drive one at a time) then again you pay on use.

      Government then collects all of the revenue through its existing retail sources, no VED to collect or monitor, no exemptions (classic cars, which complete low mileage anyway)

      So simple, that’s why it will never happen, government wants many ways to raise taxes in the hope they can hide the true cost behind confusion.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 24, 2020

        Not so easy with electric cars. Also it cannot charge different sums for congested routes or congested times so as to even out the flows a little.

        1. jerry
          January 24, 2020

          @LL; “charge different sums for congested routes or congested times”

          You sound like the old, and odd, advice given out by the traffic police, telling people to “stagger their journeys”, so everyone decided to leave home an hour later…

      2. miami.mode
        January 24, 2020

        You’re behind the curve there, Alan. Government is already looking at road pricing as electric vehicles will mean they could lose anything up to £30bn per annum in fuel duty.

        1. jerry
          January 24, 2020

          @miami.mode; Why not just meter the electricity used to charge the battery and apply a fuel duty tax to that?

          It would make better use of Smart Meter technology, and it could have automatic VIN ID via two-way coms between vehicle and charging unit, without such coms between vehicle and charger there would be no electricity delivered. Payment could similar to how people currently pay their utility bills.

          1. miami.mode
            January 24, 2020

            …and, jerry, if you live on the 12th floor of a block of flats, or have to park a street or two away from home?…

          2. jerry
            January 25, 2020

            @miami.mode; “on the 12th floor of a block of flats”

            How do you think office workers are going to recharge their EVs when at work on the 12th floor?!

            Charging points could be anywhere, from dedicated post, to built into lamp posts, even parking meters – perhaps even using contact-less charging grids built in to the road surface, using WiFi for coms etc. Trials are under way using a fleet of taxis apparently.

            If you can park a vehicle it will be possible to recharge a EV.

            That said,. I still do not agree with the idea of EVs, I was merely answering your point about HMRC fuel duty revenue.

      3. jerry
        January 24, 2020

        Fuel duty is not a mileage charge, it’s an MPG charge…

        1. Fred H
          January 24, 2020

          if only I could get mileage out of fresh air…

          1. steve
            January 24, 2020

            Fred H

            “if only I could get mileage out of fresh air…”

            You can if you attach a big enough sail to your car.

      4. steve
        January 24, 2020

        Alan Jutson

        Fuel is a gross rip off as it is. Price should be coming down, not going up.

  2. Lifelogic
    January 24, 2020

    It seem there is a plot to stop James Purnell becoming the next BBC DG. Surely the last think the BBC needs is yet another, pro EU, climate alarmist, lefty, PC, PPE graduate in the Tony Hall, Lord Patten, David Cameron mode! Though Patten read History not PPE.

    Charles Moore would do a good job but has ruled himself out. Clearly he would not have a cat in hells chance anyway. Allister Heath would be my choice but again no chance whatsoever of someone sensible getting the job.

    1. jerry
      January 24, 2020

      Rather than just appoint a new BBC DG perhaps this is the opportunity to restructure the BBC into a TVL fee (at a far lower cost) funded PSB provider with any non PSB BBC channels becoming subscription based, although this might mean a delaying any appointment until after the expected cabinet reshuffle and/or govt reorganisation.

      Most modern DVB-T TVs have CAM slots to take such cards, but were needed subscribers could be provided with a CAM equipped STB (either DVB-T or S, their choice) in the same way as they were during the run up to digital switch-over.

    2. Hope
      January 24, 2020

      He was a minister in the Labour govt, he should not be employed by the BBC at all. How can the BBC implement its charter with such a high profile committed left wing political person in such a senior position?

      It cannot be impartial and employ a former Labour minister. Woke talk about sub conscious bias, employing such political figures will mean overt bias in policy decisions. Is he suddenly going to forget the aims of the Labour Party!

  3. Lifelogic
    January 24, 2020

    Much excitement on BBC’s Newsnight about the governments UK Export Finance Agency for funding several (what appear to be) very sensible fossil fuel projects overseas. Can someone tell the BBC that CO2 is not “dirty” it is clean & odourless tree and plant food. If we are really planting a trillion new trees they will need extra CO2 to growth more quickly. Also what is gas, oil and coal anyway but old biofuel?

    Boris should join Trump and withdraw from the Paris Accord, forget about Carbon Neutral, get some sensible climate realists scientists to justify this action and repeal Ed Miliband’s appallingly damaging Climate Change Act. Perhaps the sensible Imperial Physicist Piers Corbyn, who is sound on this issue, might assist them.

    If you really want trees to capture more carbon what is actually needed is a policy of chopping old trees down, then use the wood to build things and plant new trees to replace them. But then, on balance, the evidence suggest that a little more atmospheric CO2, slightly warmer perhaps, a greening of the planet and a little more precipitation is most likely to be a net positive.

    1. Ian@Barkham
      January 24, 2020

      Agreed the Paris Accord is flaky at best.

      Interestingly CO2 can also be used to make hydrogen. Hydrogen powers fuel cells, that the is your electricity for vehicles. So that would suggest that the alarmist scaremongers dont see electricity in our future.

    2. Nig l
      January 24, 2020

      When Black Rock with over a trillion under management join the other funds that will not invest in ‘dirty’ technology, it’s days are numbered, so get used to,it, pushing the world to find green alternatives and we are already seeing the benefit. Cost of green energy coming down considerably and who knows where the floor is. Nissan discounting electric cars to Uber.

      Like most of them if we adopted your views nothing would ever change.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 24, 2020

        I am not against such technology when it works and is economic. Just against government (tax payer) bribes to roll it prematurely.

      2. Mitchel
        January 24, 2020

        Not necessarily.Outside the west,funding does not rely on western banking institutions or fund managers.State-to-state credit and development funds are being used.I’ve looked at the outline financing of fossil-fuelled projects involving Russia as developer and China and,just recently,India as direct investors,particularly in the Arctic.

        So Goldman Sachs have said they will not be financing drilling in the Arctic-they haven’t been invited!

    3. turboterrier
      January 24, 2020



    4. Lifelogic
      January 24, 2020

      Roger Harabin (Catz, English) and BBC’s climate alarmist in chief informs me (on the Today Programme today) about the new “Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change”.

      But he says :- It will solely offer advice for the UK to meet its own Climate Change Act. It will not debate the scientific “consensus” that climate change is dangerous.
      Nor will it debate if the net zero target should be brought forward to 2030, as the Extinction Rebellion group has called for.

      They are also reducing the thousands who expressed an interest down to 110 people (so I assume climate realists will be unlikely to make the cut). The more you know about physics, energy, electricty generation, climate, modelling, predicting the future, chaotic systems, engineering, maths and the likes then the more likely you are to take the sensible and correct Trump line on prophets of doom.

      Perhaps they should have had one of these bent consultations over the EU – but mandated that the Citizens could never discuss leaving the EU – only how wonderful it is and all the reasons the UK should stay in it!

      It will not work the people see right through it as do most of the honest & independent scientists.

      1. MPC
        January 24, 2020

        I too think there is much misunderstanding of what is truly scientific evidence, and far too little balanced discussion. The best way to address this would be for the government to oblige the BBC to actually comply with its own remit and cease the current editorial ban on climate sceptics which is quite shocking. Scepticism is at the heart of scientific enquiry, a fact lost on the Roger Harrabins of this world!

      2. Timaction
        January 24, 2020

        Take a look on YouTube at Tony Heller. A number of presentations as a real scientist debunking the climate change religion.

      3. Boring
        January 25, 2020

        Most mainstream media despite proclaiming weather and Climate Change are not the same, always use weather as an indication of Climate Change.
        I do not feel…the weather has changed over my years very much.Mixed and Changeable. If anything it has got more agreeable. But then I have got accustomed to same same same.

  4. Ian@Barkham
    January 24, 2020

    Good morning Sir John

    While what you are theorizing on seems a good approach, in practice it falls down.

    Here in Wokingham we do not have verges alongside main thoroughfares, and were pedestrian footpaths exist it would still require the roads closed/ traffic lights to facilitate temporary protected pedestrian access. Also the heavy machinery used requires more space than is permitted by the narrow footpaths that dominate the area, most are barely wide enough for pedestrians.

    Reply In the many new developments they can be designed with locations away from the road that do permit easy access for repair

    1. Lifelogic
      January 24, 2020

      I often wonder if new development should be build one story up with cars, garages, storage space and all the roads being under the houses at ground level with all the drains, utility pipes etc. Then the houses, paths, cycle lanes, gardens, parks, children’s play areas on the first floor and above with no cars.

      Perhaps Prince Charles could try a new updated Poundbury in this form – to distract him from his misguided St Greta climate alarmist agenda.

    2. Hope
      January 24, 2020

      JR, you are talking hypothetical fantasy again. In 1998 the crime and disorder act was introduced to make authorities work together to defeat crime including designing out crime y design. Its aim was to make sure planners at local authorities took into account crime and traffic offenses and problems. We read your govt is thinking about doing the same 22 years later after local authorities failed thier responsibilities!

      Knife crime at all time high, 149 murdered in London alone! Where is the power to forcibly remove mayors?

      1. Hope
        January 24, 2020

        In short local authorities should be designing roads and street furniture to match accident statistics, easier and cheaper to carry out repairs etc. Successive Tory ministers over ten years, like Javid, failed to hold them to account but keep shoveling money to the. Without any improvement whatsoever, at our expense and against your govt promises to freeze community charge. These CEO and directors of services at local authorities need rooting out, over paid and under qualified.

  5. Mark B
    January 24, 2020

    Good morning.

    Our cities have just grown in a random haphazard way. They were never really planned, like those of Paris or New York as so the opportunity to do much is limited. But all new developments must have as many services placed on the walkway not just to minimise congestion but to cut costs and unsightly repairs. Roads that are dug up and then resurfaced are always prone to potholes and cracking. But I am sure many of those involved do their best to minimise disruption.

    1. forthurst
      January 24, 2020

      Where there are pavements, there are likely houses and houses require services; digging up the pavement might involve laying mains across service ducts going into houses.

  6. Bernard from Bucks
    January 24, 2020

    One of the problems I’ve noticed, is that there are too many contractors involved. I was able to observe this after a gas pipe was damaged under the road outside my property. Firstly the gas board turned up to assess the work. The road was the closed and a group of workmen turned up to dig down to the pipe. Then came gas engineers. Then came the replacement pipe. Then they decided to replace a further length. When this was complete it all went quiet for a couple of days. Then a lorry arrived and dumped fill in earth. Then came another group with machinery to compact said earth. Finally the next day a tarmac team came to resurface and before the barriers were removed we had to wait for another contractor to re-paint the double lines. About ten days from start to finish Many times around the area I’ve encountered traffic lights at each end of ‘worker-less’ repairs sometimes lasting days on end.

  7. Stred
    January 24, 2020

    The time taken for road closures is the most annoying. Part of the south M25 which was made smart not long ago was narrowed to three lanes with speed limit, congestion and the smart lane closed off with cones. For weeks there was no sign of work being done.
    This week the council parking department phoned me at 7.30 am to tell me to move my car by 7.45 or else. There was a notice down the street banning parking for waterworks. I moved it just in time with a warden already there to catch people who had overstayed and warned a neighbour who also had not seen the notice. I thought that the street was being dug up but then three vans arrived and parked on the ten vacated spaces, cars having been towed away. The work was to fix a water meter leak in the footpath and was finished by midday. The ban continued until midnight and neighbours had to find spaces elsewhere.

  8. jerry
    January 24, 2020

    OK so the utilities are placed under the pavement, but you’ll still need to close off lanes because a/. utility companies need to park service vehicles [1] and b/ pedestrians (who actually have the greater rights to use our highways, other than M-ways) will need a temporary pathway alongside the work & still open road, of course you could always insist that pedestrians cross to the pother side and use the opposite pavement for the duration of the work but that would require pedestrian controlled TTLs to be placed at each end of the works so that pedestrian can cross and re-cross in safety… But you don’t like traffic lights either because they cause delays.

    Also how wide are these pavement going to be, you can not stack services as all need to be accessible without disturbing another, you can’t group them in a enclosed common ducts because that can cause dangers, in certain fault conditions electricity and gas do not mix, nor water and gas -and speaking of gas, would not an enclosed gas leak not become a pipe bomb given the amount of air that would be present within the duct…

    Even if ducting was done, how large will these need to be, unless large enough for people and their equipment to operate within would the utilities not have to still dig their service up, just as BT often has to do even those they have been ducting their cables for years, would the utilities have to double up, a service down each side of the road, or will the roads still need to be crossed and possibly dug up to service the properties on the other side.

    [1] in the USA were side of road overhead supply oif electricity and telcoms cables appears the norm

    1. jerry
      January 24, 2020

      As for your last paragraph, the balance is generally OK as it is regarding the utility companies, the real problem is with the LA sand UK Highways departments who do not (always) follow the existing guidance given to the utilities nor do work at night where they could, even when the work is miles away from the nearest house – thus 7am to 6pm and miles of tailbacks in both directions is usual just to replace a drainage cover, resurface a distance of 100 yards or build a cycleway on the road verge of a main A class trunk road…

      But night work costs more money, and some prefer giving tax cuts…

  9. Everhopeful
    January 24, 2020

    How often does one queue for ages at a road “works” site complete with every possible health and safety precaution, ( lights, exclusion zone, temporary fencing, signs, huge tranches of road cordoned off) to find the half-finished job totally abandoned and NO WORK being carried out?
    Add this to the ever-increasing traffic and there is gridlock.
    Not surprised to see that the EU has produced reams of regs regarding all this!

  10. Lifelogic
    January 24, 2020

    Some very good news. It seems most Labour Party members voted for Corbyn as the leader they most liked. I agree, anyone who keeps Labour out of power is a hero to me. We have far too much socialism from the Conservatives and Libdims anyway. Let us hope they choose someone with a similar talent to lose to replace him.

    1. A Claw by any other
      January 25, 2020

      They think Socialism is a taunt. No, its is the political-economic rolling out of socialism. Just b/c it is called something other, explained as something other does not change the Being.

  11. Dominic
    January 24, 2020

    The roadworks of Wokingham are of zero interest to most who infrequently gravitate towards this political website. The increasingly parochial bent of our host is sending us into a stupor

    I have a sense that certain issues that may trigger a degree of controversy are routinely ignored which is understandable for any Tory MP but it does beg the following question –

    If far more important issues than roadworks in Wokingham that are deemed controversial are ever going to be resolved then surely we need to address them? This stance by the Tory party has led us to this point.

    The Tory party refuses to address the most important issues of our day. The party’s been acting in this manner for years and either turn a blind-eye or transfer the responsibility for change over to others.

    We pray for another Margaret Thatcher or Trump to expose the appalling moral weakness of the Tory party

    Reply My site covers a wide range of issues that matter. You clearly do not like me, my site or my views so I suggest you find a better site to publish you.

    1. Fred H
      January 24, 2020

      Dominic – – I will be amazed if Wokingham is the only area suffering the oft-reported issues you read here. Most are commonplace in England, I cannot really voice that about the other members of the Union. They tend to be symtomatic of the electorate’s opinion of matters that affect our daily lives, and our view on where the future quality of life here is headed. As Sir John points out – go read your own MP’s blog, if one exists. We are grateful that our MP is interested, tries to get buy-in from others that might assist in putting things right to our satisfaction, and might be better equipped to feel the pulse of the electorate in England.

  12. Nig l
    January 24, 2020

    Kind of in a similar vein but umpteen times larger. The NAOs report into HS2. The most damning indictment. We must not be made to pay for this incompetence. Will any lessons be learned, people held to account. Sorry that was a joke. Just like the management of your topic. Fines. Who cares? Just pass them on to us.

    Re HS2. If ever the politics in the country is in favour of cancellation it is now. Will your PM and Cabinet have the cojones? The Flybe decision tells me they won’t and doesn’t bode well for our EU negotiations.

  13. jerry
    January 24, 2020

    OT, I note the WA Bill is now an Act, we ARE leaving 11pm next Friday, time to pop the cork on a bottle or two of British Champaign (oops, I mean, according to EU law, a bottle of British bubbling white fermented grape juice…).

    It was also reported (not by the BBC…) that the White House believes a meaningful TA can be reached by the end of the year with the UK, and that Downing Street might priorities the US over a TA with the EU – if true, GOOD!

  14. Mike Stallard
    January 24, 2020

    Out here in the Fens it seems to be working pretty well at the moment actually.
    Despite the fact that we have a lot of new houses being built in what was once a nice little village.

  15. Excalibur
    January 24, 2020

    On Tuesday, at 9.pm, a car transporter crashed into the central barrier of the north circular road in Lincoln. It. spilled cars and debris onto both lanes. Simple job you would think. Replace the crash barrier, clean up the debris. Job done. At 4.30 p.m. yesterday both carriageways on each side were still closed.

    It is not so much road closure that irritates (although there is an inordinate readiness to do so), but the apparent lack of urgency in getting a major road re-opened. The authorities seem to relish the inconvenience foisted on the public.

    1. Excalibur
      January 24, 2020

      I’m sorry, that should read on Wednesday evening

    2. Everhopeful
      January 24, 2020

      Agree that the authorities seem to take great delight in closing roads.
      I wonder if the reason for closing them is that the powers that be have ceased to believe in the concept of an accident. Everything has to be INVESTIGATED to distraction. As if hurtling around in great metal boxes full of electrics and oil etc doesn’t have inherent risks. So while they are measuring and photographing and goodness knows what else they are actually playing out the lefty moral code of perpetrator and victim. Someone MUST be to blame.
      Meanwhile crime is rarely investigated.

      1. Everhopeful
        January 24, 2020

        Oh..apparently the EU is aiming for zero traffic fatalities by 2050!!!!

  16. Newmania
    January 24, 2020

    Interesting how bad the English are at running bureaucracies isn`t it. Our civil service had 430,000 people in in 2018 plus all the Council staff whereas the about 25 -30k. employees work in the Commission to run the whole EU. Estimates of 25,000 handling Brexit are of course a joke. No-one is doing anything else. I dread to think what the true cost is, but I do know that departments are competing for staff to the extent they have massive wage inflation.
    There will be endless efforts to change the subject of the next few years and normalise elevating the obsessions of few fruitcakes to the level of National destiny.
    Don`t be fooled, there is nothing else going on. Its Brexit and talking ,c`est tout .The roads will be as bad as ever

    1. Edward2
      January 24, 2020

      Poor comparison because the EU staff just make all the new rules, regulations, directives and laws which are then dropped onto member nations to enact.
      And it is that stage where the actual work begins.

      1. bill brown
        January 26, 2020

        Edward 2

        Have you ever heard about the number of interest groups lobbying Eu decision making before any decisions are made

        1. Edward2
          January 26, 2020


    2. NickC
      January 24, 2020

      Newmania, There are 165 countries which are not in the EU on the planet. I’m quite sure they don’t consider themselves “fruitcakes”. So when we become the 166th why should we?

  17. Andy
    January 24, 2020

    I thought you lot were opposed to red tape.

    And here you are wanting all sorts of bureaucratic rules for people who just want to dig up a road.

    Surely government should get out of the way and just let them do what they like.

    1. NickC
      January 24, 2020

      Andy, What we’re opposed to are excessive and obsessive bureaucratic rules, especially those made to suit foreign countries, yet imposed upon us by the EU. But you knew that anyway . . . .

  18. Fred H
    January 24, 2020

    What happened to the, as I thought, rule that roads could not be dug within a year or two of the last permission granted? Who authorises the contracts which clearly do not have meaningful penalties after late completion? Why do cones go down way ahead of works? Once started men do minor works, and clearly wait days before equipment is available to get on with what is required. Hours of work seem largely morning rush hour, to suit the digging team? Work stops directly after the evening rush. Any excuse – ‘we didn’t know what we might find’ is made which further delays the fix. Temporary lights have odd time-share, regularly fail and usually direct vehicles over already poor road surface – meaning once finished the damage might get repaired- guess what? – within the next year all over again.

  19. Wil Pretty
    January 24, 2020

    It is important to determine best practice in this matter urgently.
    The Government has decided that we should have net zero Carbon Emmissions by 2050.
    This will require the energy supplied to households by gas and oil to be replaced by electricity.
    It is likely that the existing electricity distribution will need to be totally upgraded if not replaced.
    This project will result in every road being dug up.
    This will cost a vast unbudgeted ammount so it will, in the real world, be done in the cheapest way possible. This will likely inconveniences the user the most.

  20. Kevin
    January 24, 2020

    “Do they need any new legislative powers?”

    This question merely makes me think of the legislative power that the Conservative Party is about to hand over to the EU, in one week’s time, under Article 127 of the Withdrawal Agreement (“WA”). Shortly before the election, in a Brexit Party video, one of their MEPs reported on a committee meeting that he had participated in, which had also been attended by Michel Barnier. He said that he had asked the latter, specifically, what guarantees will the UK have that the EU will not “abuse your position of power which you will have over us” under the WA. He said that he received no reply.

  21. Alan Jutson
    January 24, 2020

    The biggest scandal is the quality of the so called making good afterwards, time after time we see the making good fail after only a few months in some cases, so we have to dig up the same piece of road again with ever more delays.

    Why is there not an enforced guarantee period on the contractor for the quality of the repairs made.

    Time after time I see large chunks of tarmac peeling off of a recently re-surfaced road where preparation has been poor to non existent.

    Street furniture (manholes, drain covers etc) seems to be ever failing with the substrate collapsing, clearly either the substate has been installed poorly, or the bearing surface of the furniture is too small in area given the pressure and weight of traffic.

  22. SM
    January 24, 2020

    The needs of the utilities are the same as the needs of the customer. Attempting to reconcile those needs along with the constraints of old technology and the possibilities of the new, traffic demands and already established buildings requires a management genius, not politicians.

  23. Alan Jutson
    January 24, 2020

    In Wokingham over the last few years the council have taken to spraying a thin (about 6mm thick) so called high friction coloured resin on many of our roads, at so called danger spots.

    Problem is this covering only last about 18 months before it starts to fail, and when it fails it accelerates the wear on the tarmac beneath it, due to rainwater being held on the pot marked surface which then freezes.

    Not only does this coloured resin give the effect of a toy town, it must also cost significant sums of money to install and maintain, the coloured resin is useless at night when it rains, (probably the highest risk time) as the wet road is reflected in the street lights and no discernible colour difference is noticeable.

    How much does all this cost JR and is it really worth it.

    You just have to look at the coloured resin areas to see the wear and degradation I outline.

  24. agricola
    January 24, 2020

    You are absolutely correct on all counts. If there are legal impediments to doing this, then remove them. At the same time government needs to direct local authorities towards such a policy. You wil have to accept the dis ruption this work may cause, however why not make it policy to lay new under pavements and abandon what is under the road. Government will have to lay down the engineering principals in doing this. If you leave it to local councils you will end up with the recycling shambles we currently enjoy.

  25. agricola
    January 24, 2020

    You are absolutely correct on all counts. If there are legal impediments to doing this, then remove them. At the same time government needs to direct local authorities towards such a policy. You wil have to accept the dis ruption this work may cause, however why not make it policy to lay new under pavements and abandon what is under the road. Government will have to lay down the engineering principals in doing this. If you leave it to local councils you will end up with the recycling shambles we currently enjoy…

    1. agricola
      January 24, 2020

      Captcha playing silly buggers again.

  26. acorn
    January 24, 2020

    Mr Grayling had a go at this subject, nuff said. Utilities have been put under lite foundation footpaths since the 1970’s. Sewers and surface drains go down deep onder heavy gauge road foundations. Anything that crosses a road goes in a culvert except gas pipes. A lot of UK below ground infrastructure is several decades old and in a delicate state. https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/street-works

  27. Peter
    January 24, 2020

    Four out of five posts from one contributor.

    So much for the New Year’s Resolution about tougher moderation.

  28. Nessimmersion
    January 24, 2020

    To minimise disruption, the govt should make it compulsory for lane rental to take place for all works on public roads.
    Other counties have adopted the practise of whenever there is need to close a public route for access, rental is paid per hour and length of road closed i.e. country lanes are cheaper than A roads but they all have a rental cost.
    This brings an incentive to minimise disruption in automatically, where the contractor will try to collborate with others on cost sharing, find alternatives and at the very least stop the practise of leaving roads coned off with no work taking place.
    Rental can be based on time value as well with rush hour being more expensive.
    This also applies to council contracts, again a financial incentive to complete the works quicker than contracted.
    No micro-management, just allowing market based incentives to function.

  29. Dan
    January 24, 2020

    Part of the problem regarding roads as I see it is that many of our roads are old, small and largely unavoidable if you need to get anywhere, particularly in out towns and cities. We do not generally have the luxury of space to allow for wide roads, wide pavements and so on to allow for the siting of maintenance tunnels underneath them for the siting of power and communication cables, water and gas pipes and so on. I would hope that any future planning officers involved in the drawing up of new or expanded towns, industrial sites and so on will take this into account and plan accordingly. Having tunnels that are accessible 24/7 would mean that any maintenance would mean minimal disturbance for users be they pedestrian or otherwise. A disadvantage would be that they would be much more vulnerable to damage by criminals and terrorists for nefarious purposes.

  30. HJ
    January 24, 2020

    One of the major reasons why our roads are in such a terrible state is poor repairs after the utilities have dug up the roads. These poor repairs inevitably allow the ingress of water and, especially when that freezes, the surface disintegrates. When utilities dig up roads they should not only have to pay for the delays (to encourage them to co-operate with each other over works and get the job done quickly) but they should also be required to use council-approved contractors to re-lay the whole road surface properly to the original standard.

    1. steve
      January 24, 2020


      “they should also be required to use council-approved contractors to re-lay the whole road surface properly to the original standard.”

      And there you have it, well said.

      They don’t do reinstatement anymore, and in times paste the contractors didn’t get paid until the Local Authority’s Clerk of the Works was satisfied.

      Shoddy workmanship causes potholes – which ultimately costs motorists money.

  31. kzb
    January 24, 2020

    Yes of course the cables and pipes shouldn’t be under the highway. It is completely nuts. However we are stuck with it now, so we need to manage roadworks better.
    What happens now is a shambles. Road works can start with seemingly no concern over the cost to the local population or local economy. They think nothing of closing A-roads for a whole year for traffic light upgrades.
    The obstructions, speed limits and the rest get put in with remarkable speed. After that you will barely ever see anyone working there. Something must be done about this, it is killing the economy.

    January 24, 2020

    Ducted utilities away from the crown of the road would work well in many cases. Yes, it
    might take fifty years for full practical deployment but I agree with JR that the costs of disruption from digging up roads are huge, hidden from government budgets and borne by citizens and businesses in terms of wasted time and frustration.

    Law would be needed to ensure this approach is used.

    Has anyone noticed how smaller roads in much of Europe use paviers/blocks, which make access easier and act as a beneficial traffic calming surface? Might they work here?

  33. NigelE
    January 24, 2020

    What can we learn from the Japanese? They have a reputation for doing repairs quickly and well.

    1. Fred H
      January 24, 2020

      yep – – quite a few years ago we stayed in Tokyo and visited some places at night (no guess what). While travelling about we were transfixed to find teams of road repairers busily doing what was needed – others with what I’ll call light-sabres directing traffic round it, and marshalling pedestrians. We were told it would be finished overnight – no ifs or buts.

  34. Dunc.
    January 24, 2020

    Force contractors to work weekends and holidays to clear A and B roads.
    Digging up major highways on Friday afternoons or Good Fridays , knowing nothing will happen should be made illegal.
    The trouble is most local councils highways departments are run by Green Loonies who think inconveniencing motorists is a good thing.

    1. jerry
      January 24, 2020

      @Dunc; “Force contractors to work weekends and holidays to clear A and B roads.”

      I just love these comments from those who, obviously, live a 9-5 life Monday to Fridays only…

      In many parts of the country, especially between March and October, weekends and holidays are the business times, do as you suggest around here and it would create gridlock -its bad enough without any roadworks!

  35. agricola
    January 24, 2020

    Further to your thoughts on domestic services being under the most accessible least disruptive part of the highway.

    We have water, sewage, gas, electricity and communication systems to accommodate. To do so effectively and economically we need a national system of walk through concrete tubing. This dictates a tube of at least seven feet in diameter that can carry all the above services. The tube must also be impervious to water. We need dedicated machinery that can entrench for such a tube and machinery that can lower and backfill each section. The concrete service tube should be factory created and come prefitted with the domestic service tubes and conduit for electricity and communications. The main service tube should also include sections for access and direction changes. We should employ Cad/Cam to pre plan each run to eliminate problems. It should be a 24 hour 3 shift operation, present public works lethargy are totally unacceptable.

    An afterthought on the concrete service tube. Investigate manufacturing it from recycled plastic of the greatest range possible. We have a profusion of such waste at present. We could move it from landfill to a more useful form of landfill. Look for engineers with a first name begining with Isambard to create the project.

    1. Iago
      January 25, 2020

      Since there are bound to be bursts, how about a separate tube for the sewage?

    2. DavidJ
      January 25, 2020

      We already have tunnelling and pipejacking equipment for such tasks but existing obstructions in urban areas are always an issue. Runs are already pre-planned but records of existing services, which must be kept operational, are often poor. We also have many different types of pipes and tunnel linings for your “tube” of a large range of sizes. The many lateral connections to properties are still an issue and will in most cases potentially conflict with other pipes and cables alongside.

      Detailed planning is already employed but sometimes there is still the unexpected to deal with.

  36. Lyr In
    January 24, 2020

    You’re doing a great job,sir. I wish there were some activists like you in every country

  37. steve
    January 24, 2020


    “Should we be tougher and demand mpre off peak working?”

    Interesting you should say that. Up here we have some works going on for the last year. Like all other utilities roadworks I notice workmen usually standing around doing little other than yakking on mobile phones, propping themselves up with a spade, in fact it appears anything but graft.

    However to the point – they always down tools and go home at 15:30. I wish I had such a perk.

    I often reflect that if for example the Royal Engineers (or indeed a US style chain gang) were doing the job instead, it would be done in no time.

    Spend much of the day filling your face from the local eatery, waste the rest on your mobile phone, refuse to operate anything that does not have an engine, and swan off at half past three.

    And folk wonder why roadworks take so long in this country.

  38. margaret
    January 24, 2020

    Quite right too. This combined with poor flow of traffic causes havoc.I am lucky enough to practice approx 8 mins by car daily . This can be changed to an hours journey every time the road is up locally or there is a tail back from other roads and motorways .

  39. mancunius
    January 24, 2020

    For several years now, the water mains have been leaking into the local roads in a half-mile radius. The roads adjoin a crucial trunk route in and out of the city. On two occasions the water company has simply cut off the water without notice, for several hours at a time: when forced to pay compensation, they pay peanuts. Local roads that are virtually sole routes are closed, often for weeks. I have never seen anyone actually working on or inside the road, just occasionally sitting in a parked van using phone or computer.
    This is not in some remote area of the Pennines, but in the middle of our capital city, where the traffic is devolved to a branch of the Mayor’s office that seems unaccountable even to police complaints on the subject.
    At such times I thank God I have no car.

  40. DavidJ
    January 25, 2020

    A major issue here is that much of the infrastructure was put in the ground decades ago when traffic disruption was not a great issue. Moving it would be extremely expensive. Of course we have tunnelling and trenchless methods which are often used but still require access points and the cost may be prohibitive. There are other issues with regard to using verges (often non existent) and footpaths which are usually already occupied by shallow telecoms and electricity services, or adjacent to property on shallow foundations requiring competent support and restriction of access for excavation below that level.

    Another issue, particular with trenchless methods is suitability of ground conditions. Current tunnelling methods, normally mechanised these days, can cope but cost will increase dramatically should specialist techniques be necessary.

  41. Lindsay McDougall
    January 26, 2020

    On the A30 between Basingstoke and Hartley Wintney we have had roadworks, often necessitating one way lights controlled shuttle traffic, every month since May of 2018. The roadworks have involved services alongside the road but close to it.

    Many of these roadworks have to provide or modify services to new houses. Many of the new houses in this part of the world have resulted from ‘White Flight’ from Greater London, in turn resulting from the Government’s failure to curb immigration, particularly into Greater London. In order to facilitate immigration that we don’t want, we have to provide houses that we don’t want, leading to roadworks that we don’t want.

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