Proposal to increase guarantee on utility firms’ roadworks and introduce new asphalt standards
UTILITY companies could be better held to account for poor road repairs that cause potholes or dangerous road surfaces, says the Department for Transport (DfT).
Last week Transport Secretary Chris Grayling launched a consultation on increasing the guarantee on utility firms’ roadworks, so that if a pothole forms as a result within five years, the company must return to bring the road surface back to normal.
The Specification for the reinstatement of openings in highways construction will propose increasing the minimum guarantee from the current two years to up to five years, and will also introduce new asphalt standards, to keep roads pothole-free for longer.
Mr Grayling said: ‘Potholes are the biggest enemy for road users and this government is looking at all options to keep our roads in the best condition. Road surfaces can be made worse by utility companies, so imposing higher standards on repairs will help keep roads pothole-free for longer.’
The proposals also allow for new innovative surfacing to be used, such as asphalt with a high bitumen content that is easier to compact to the required density, to make it less prone to potholing.
The consultation, which will last eight weeks, follows a number of other interventions by the Government to help improve road surfaces. Last month, the DfT announced real-world tests of new road surfaces and technologies in eight areas to see which emerging innovations provide long-term solutions to improve journeys.
The £22.9 million Live Labs projects will be delivered by councils – including Kent, Staffordshire, Reading, Suffolk and Solihull and Birmingham – and, if successful, could be adopted by other authorities.
These schemes include expanding the test in Cumbria of plastic roads, using kinetic energy off Buckinghamshire roads to power lighting and using geothermal energy to keep car parks and, in central Bedfordshire, bus stations from freezing over.
In the Budget in November, the Chancellor announced an additional £420 million for road maintenance for the 2018–2019 financial year, bringing the total funding for pothole repair and roads maintenance up to £6.6 billion from 2015 to 2020.
Commenting on the consultation on new asphalt standards, Rick Green, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), said: ‘The AIA’s Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey has highlighted for many years the impact of utility reinstatements on local authorities’ carriageway maintenance budgets.
‘We are supportive of the DfT’s consultation on the updated Specification, including the review of an extended guarantee for repairs related to utility work, bringing them closer in line with those for road construction.
‘Specialists from across the highways industry have contributed to the development of the revised Specification, which forms the basis of the DfT’s consultation announced today [6 March], and the sector continues to invest heavily in the development of materials and technologies to enhance the durability, safety and sustainability of asphalt.’