Street works and utilities


             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.


  1. Simon George
    August 24, 2012

    “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.”

    And how about ensuring segregated cycling infrastructure is included in all redevelopments as is the law in France?

  2. James Sutherland
    August 24, 2012

    I’m normally no fan of government databases, since they tend to involve new ways to spy on private individuals, but could we not have a shared database of pipes and cables? An enormous amount of damage and disruption is caused by one utility company accidentally digging through another’s. Chopping through a buried power cable can black out whole blocks of a city for hours while the power company rushes to patch the damage as an emergency; cut a fibre optic bundle, you can knock out landline, mobile and broadband services to whole cities. Plotting planned future works on there as well would enable all parties to make savings as well – not to mention warning them when important parts of their networks might be at risk from stray digging.

    At work last year, some gas and electricity lines had to be rerouted. I watched over the course of months as the contractors slowly dug a long trench, extracted the old gas main then refilled the trench … only to return the next week to dig the same trench again to remove the power line. No doubt great news for that contractor, but would either client have been happy to pay to fill in a hole the other then paid them to re-dig?

    Reply: The main utilities have been mapping, and are n ow experimenting with remote technology to allow pin pointing the pipe in future. The organisaiton I spoke to recommends Councils to circulate other utilities in advance of works to allow them to use the street opening at the same time.

  3. Tom Sharpe
    August 25, 2012

    I recall Evan Davis as a highly intelligent researcher at IFS in the 1980s before his current celebrity. Your comments on his interview seem to me to be absoluetky right. Do you ever get a response from the BBC? Economics is his area of expertise, after all.

  4. David Langley
    August 26, 2012

    It is so obvious that we are disadvantaged in relation to other larger countries. Our ancient creaking road system based largely on old country tracks and cart roads have lead to properties being constructed alongside them. We are never going to stop the road diggers from wrecking the road surfaces. Winter comes and the frost and weather assist the traffic in smashing up the road surfaces. Pavements when existing, are likewise smashed up and often badly relaid causing obstruction danger and potential hazards. It all contributes to the sense of despair often felt by motorists and pedestrians alike when faced with the inevitable and continual mess and disruption. Sometimes its only a peripheral problem but all adds together to the sense of joy when face with the open continental roads.

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