Updated 8 August 2013
Utility companies have legal powers under the New Roads & Street Works Act 1991 to install and maintain their apparatus in the highway. This legislation and a series of national Codes of Practice and Specifications exist to ensure that their work is safe and fit for purpose. Utility companies, as professional private organisations are entirely responsible for the quality of their work and must ensure that their work meets the national specifications.
In accordance with the legislation all utility reinstatements have a guarantee period of two years during which any faults must be remedied at their cost. The same legislation and National Codes of Practice permit the County Council to inspect a utility company’s work.
There are approximately 100,000 holes dug in Hampshire roads each year and it is impossible to inspect all of them. The national Code of Practice for inspections sets out a process whereby the County Council visually inspects a random 30% sample of utility works; 10% during the works, 10% immediately after works have completed and 10% at the end of the two year guarantee period.
The utility companies pay the County Council to undertake these inspections. If more than 10% of inspected sites fail to comply then the utility company responsible is usually required to put in place an improvement plan to try to prevent further problems occurring. The County Council can also undertake additional random inspections on poor performing utility companies to ensure compliance with their improvement plan.
In addition the County Council undertakes extra inspections, at its own cost, on utility sites as part of its normal highway duties or if it suspects there to be a problem, or as a result of reports from members of the public. These additional inspections are undertaken at any stage of the reinstatements life, even after the two year guarantee period.
In accordance with the Codes of Practice, the inspections undertaken by the County Council are mainly visual inspections and are done to check that the correct cones and signs are being used or that the surface of the reinstatement has not sunk, cracked or is not visually defective in any way. The County Council also operates a small program of both random and targeted coring to determine compliance of the layers not visible on the surface.
Currently most utility companies operating in Hampshire are performing excellently, most operate very safe sites and very few reinstatements fail the random visual inspections set out in the National Codes of Practice. However, where work by a utility company is found to be non compliant the utility company is required to repair the defect at their own cost. They are also required to reimburse the County Council for its costs incurred in detecting the defect.
The County Council also undertakes regular inspections of work undertaken by its own contractors to assess site safety and quality of workmanship. These inspections are similar to those done on utility company works. As with utility companies, any defects found are usually fixed by the contractor without cost to the County Council.
The County Council has developed a voluntary code of practice with utility companies and County Council contractors, with the aim of improving the quality of works and further minimising disruption. It covers works in Hampshire, including those parts of Hampshire that are the responsibility of Southampton City Council.
The Code of Practice is called the Good Working Practice Agreement, and it complements the National Code of Practice developed by the Highway Authorities & Utilities Committee (HAUC(UK)