I met representatives of the National Joint Utilities Group today to discuss how Wokingham could in future be spared some of the road closures and disruption that utility works impose.
I pointed out that where new development or redevelopment was taking place, it is possible to put all the utilities into an accessible conduit so that future maintenance and replacement can take place without having to dig up the road. As Wokingham is about to undergo major Town centre redevelopment, and as new housing is scheduled at four locations in the Borough, now is a good time to impose new standards for future convenience.
I also reminded them that frequently one utility digs up the road, only for another to have to do the same in a similar place the following year. There are also cases of closing roads for long period, when there is no evening or week-end working. Can’t road access be restored when the contractors are not in situ?
NJUG agreed with a lot of these points. They explained that they are working on ways of replacing and repairing pipes which do not require digging up the road, and on methods which entail smaller holes that can be bored and filled much more quickly to get what access is needed. It is possible to cover holes and trenches to re-open the road when no works are under way. They do have a Best Practice Guide which recommends all utilities being asked if they can make use of a road opening when one is undertaking major works. They have a Code of Conduct which they like Councils and utilities to sign, which places emphasis on keeping more roads open more often.
We both agreed to follow up with Wokingham over how the new developments could be used to assist in reducing future road works.