Digging up the roads

All too often the main roads of Wokingham are dug up by the leading utilities for new gas pipes, new water pipes, and new cables. As always, one wants to do their work at a time when the others do not. It means year after year we have holes in the road for one reason or another.

This time it is the water industry. They are already in the dog house for their failure to supply us this summer, claiming drought. Their prices are high, their service poor and their pipes leaky. I am holding meetings with them to see if they can in the future do better for us.

All these utilities should look at ways of containing pipes and cables under a pavement or verge in a conduit which allows access for repair and replacement without having to dig everything up. Commercial buildings no longer run cables and pipes through plaster and in walls, but contain all the crucial ones beneath the floor, with access through easily removed floor panels. Why on earth can’t we do the same to avoid digging up the public highway?

I am also urging the water industry to move more siwftly to competition, to start to improve service and bring prices down. There are good reports of the impact of competition for Scottish business customers. Why can’t we have that south of the border? I also want to see their plans to ensure we do not run out of water in the future. This all too wet summer allows them to fill their reservoirs and improves the water table. Som now is a good time to collect enough water for future use to avoid future drought scares.


  1. Old Albion
    July 14, 2012

    John, i live near the river Medway. As you will know, we started this summer with drought orders and hosepipe bans. Southern water obtained a licence to abstract even more water than usual from the Medway. It was pumped to Bewl reservoir to refill it.
    Bewl is back to normal levels now. But the Medway is high and rushing through like an out of control locomotive. Perhaps not surprising considering the amount of rain we’ve had (the ol’ “we’re in drought cry” always works, as Denis Howell found out)
    So here’s the question. Why don’t water companies design a system to harvest off all the flood water such as you could observe in the Medway today?

  2. Simon
    July 14, 2012

    Quite frankly, I would much rather have the utilities dig up the roads than force the elderly, those with pushchairs, or those in wheelchairs off the pavement and into the traffic.

    Given that when pavements are dug up on busy roads, pedestrian routes have to be maintained by coming off the road, I don’t see what difference your suggestion would make.

    Reply: The utilities could be under one of the two pavements available, and could be accessed through a cover, avoiding any need to dig up the pavement or road.

  3. HK1
    July 16, 2012

    I don’t know what the current regulations are, but this is a 1995 notice from Hong Kong’s telecom regulator (then the “TA”) as guidance to all the then-new telecom licensees, outlining what happened with road openings for utilities:

    “The Director of Highways will normally not permit openings in a carriageway constructed or re-constructed within the previous 5 years, or in a carriageway or pedestrian pavement resurfaced within the past year unless he is satisfied that the need for the opening could not have been anticipated and that there is no practicable alternative. Telecommunication/broadcasting network operators should keep this in mind when they plan for their cable and ducting networks. In particular, if any operator decides not to join in a road opening exercise in the first place but subsequently applies to the Government for road opening along the same route within the road opening restriction period, it will need to provide to the TA full justification for why an exception to this rule would be warranted. ”

    This seems a perfectly sensible approach to me and could – I assume – be implemented on a local basis.

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