Strategic Consultation on Works on Scottish Roads Analysis of Consultation Responses
6. CO-ORDINATION OF WORKS
6.1 This chapter reports on the largest section of the consultation, which asked thirteen questions all on the core subject of road works co-ordination. Co-ordination is one of the most important elements when undertaking road works, and there has been considerable previous work in this area. An earlier consultation on the Code of Practice for Co-ordination of Works in Roads, which closed in October 2012, revealed a number of technical issues to be explored, many of which were included in the current consultation.
6.2 Roads authorities have responsibility for co-ordinating all road works by utility companies and works for road purposes. The aim is to balance the statutory rights of roads authorities and utility companies to carry out works, with the expectation that disruption from works shall be kept to a minimum. To facilitate this, advanced notice of works requires to be given. The consultation specifically questioned if the existing three month advanced notice period was perceived as appropriate, and a second question was also asked about whether three months was required for non-traffic sensitive roads.
6.3 Also in the interests of better co-ordination, an early start procedure has been created and endorsed by the Commissioner to provide flexibility to allow works to start without providing the statutory minimum notice period for an 'advance notice' in some circumstances. While the use of this early start procedure has been voluntary to date, the consultation asked respondents whether the early start procedure ought to be statutory.
6.4 In the case of road works that are classified as 'urgent', there is logic that such works should start as soon as possible and, as part of the consultation, views were sought on whether noon the following day should be a statutory requirement for commencing any such works classified as urgent. This would potentially assist co-ordination by reducing instances of misclassification of works.
6.5 In the interests of achieving parity between both roads authorities and utility companies, a question was also asked about whether legislation be introduced to ensure that roads authorities are required to provide the same information as utility companies and to the same timescales for all expected starting dates, urgent works and emergency works. Views were sought to explore if the availability of such information for all may, again, improve co-ordination. Similarly, at present, regulations are in place which allow utility companies the flexibility of not requiring to place notices for works involving no or minimal excavation on non-traffic sensitive roads, and a question was asked about whether this same flexibility should be afforded to roads authorities and regularised.
6.6 In the interests of making as much information available as possible on works, to facilitate co-ordination, questions were also asked about whether regulations should be introduced, similar to those in England and Wales, to require roads authorities and utility companies to place notices on the Scottish Road Works Register when works commence, i.e. actual start notices, and for such notices to be lodged by noon the following day for all works. As well as benefiting co-ordination, such noticing may also have benefits to third party organisations and public road users alike in terms of confirming what works in roads are actually underway.
6.7 As with actual start notices, works closed notices are required from utility companies by the end of the next working day on completion of their works (and, as discussed above, views were also sought on whether this would be appropriate for roads authorities). Although experience in the road works community to date would suggest that this allows for general co-ordination, views were sought on whether changes to this timescale may be appropriate to allow for even better co-ordination.
6.8 At present, a period of up to seven days from the expected start date given for works to actual commencement is allowed (depending on the type of works), and this applies only to utility companies. The consultation sought views on whether the same validity periods should be applied to roads authorities, in the interests of consistency, as well as whether the validity periods should be reduced to give greater certainty as to when works will actually commence.
6.9 Two further questions were asked, both with regard to the statutory powers held by roads authorities, firstly, to impose maximum durations for works on utility companies (i.e. where they consider the period proposed is longer than should be necessary) and, secondly, whether they should be given powers to impose embargoes on works for reasons other than traffic disruption. Both such measures were designed to improve the timeliness of works completion with a view to aiding co-ordination.
6.10 The final question in this section sought views on a revised definition of 'working day', specific to the Scottish road works community. This was proposed as an alternative to the existing definition of working day given at Section 157(2) of NRSWA and was put forward as a more locally appropriate definition.
Advance Notice Periods
Q.18. What are your views on the 3 month advance notice period for major works?
* Of the five respondents who did not answer this question, four were from group three and one was from group one.
1. The majority of respondents thought that the three month period is necessary for good co-ordination.
2. Some of those supporting the three month advance period felt that the early start procedure provides the flexibility when required (if appropriate) and that reducing this three month period would have negative consequences, in terms of co-ordination and in terms of the message it would send out to utility companies.
3. The reasons given for supporting a reduction in the three month period, were that it restricts flexibility, is excessive in rural areas and can have negative consequences (i.e. increases the number of early starts).
6.11 Of the 29 respondents who felt the three month period was necessary/should remain, opinions ranged from seeing this period as an absolute minimum to those who considered it suitable in principle but who also had reservations. The main reasons given for supporting the three month advance notice period for major works were:
- It aids co-ordination and allows sufficient time: to effectively plan the works; for anyone who has other planned works to be made aware of the proposals; to contact the major works promoter and, if necessary, programme in works before the major works are due to take place; for roads authorities and utility companies to discuss local issues; for other utilities to be aware of and have the opportunity to co-ordinate works, either at the same time and location or to avoid works in the vicinity during the period (especially important for major works to which the three month period applies) and to give roads authorities some influence over the timing of works (which would be lost if only seven days' notice were given).
- It has a positive impact on bus and freight operators and on passenger transport. Retaining a three month notice period is one way to ensure that operators have long enough to plan and publicise service disruptions to inform passengers, should such steps be necessary:
"Advance notice of road works is vitally important for passenger transport operators. Operators with a registered bus service are duty bound to run that service punctually and reliably. There is a set window of tolerance for deviation from the scheduled running time and any external factor that impacts upon a route needs to be taken into consideration as early as possible." (CPT)
- The early start procedure provides flexibility when used in conjunction with the three month advance notice period for major works.
"The three month advance notice coupled with the early start provision ensures that works are discussed and agreed at an early stage and are not unnecessarily held up once agreements are in place. Undertakers who co-operate with the roads authority are not disadvantaged by a three month period." (Stirling Council)
- The early start procedure forces utility companies to provide details of their planned works at an earlier stage. Several respondents from group one stated that utility companies provide various reasons for failing to bring details of works proposals to the table at local co-ordination meetings.
- Any reduction in this advance notice period would have negative consequences both for co-ordination and in terms of the message it would send out to utility companies. In terms of the impact on co-ordination, it was felt that allowing each Major Project to start in any less than three months from the initial notification of it, would require roads authorities to only concentrate on issuing directions, to the detriment of any other duties they carry out:
"It would be impossible to read, respond to, request meetings for, and agree traffic management/timing for several projects over several months if each one can start in less than three months from your initial notification of it. It would require roads authorities to concentrate on nothing but issuing directions against new requests each day to the detriment of any other duties." (West Lothian Council)
- Major capital works are not approved without detailed pre-planning and notification is a valid part of that pre-planning:
"Shortening the notice period would send the message that you keep your pre-planning in house, and then notify at the stage where a contractor is appointed and a final design agreed. No organisation that co-operates with the road authority is disadvantaged by a three month notice period." (City of Edinburgh Council)
6.12 Other points made by those supporting the three month advance notice period for major works included:
- The current definition of 'major works' is too wide/vague and can include some works that are/could be considered minor in nature. A revision to the narrow criteria for major works is required.
- Early starts on major works should be monitored separately.
- Many smaller projects away from busy arterial routes get pulled into the category because they are on a programme and early starts are required to facilitate the works promptly to the benefit of the public. For example, if any works require a road closure, for even the shortest time, then the SRWR automatically sets the works to major works. It should be the case that if works require a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) then the major works heading would suffice but if the works only require a Temporary Restriction Notice (TRN) then the works should be set as 'standard works'.
6.13 Responses from roads authorities highlighted problems they can encounter in meeting the requirements for the three month noticing period:
- Several participants stressed that the three month notice period lacks flexibility where a roads authority is required to accelerate financial spend at particular times of the year or when facing unforeseen events.
- Damage to the road network following a prolonged spell of severe weather requires structural maintenance repairs at short notice.
- Advance notices should be not have a restricted validity period. Three respondents stated that the advance notice should be placed before the works have been firmly scheduled in order to allow flexibility to co-ordinate with any other major works at the same location.
- Details of the location of planned major works should be placed on the Register as early as possible in order to maximise the opportunity for co-ordination. Utility companies notice 'major works' on SRWR three months in advance but the full details of their operations are never submitted to the local authority at this time (not uncommon practice). This causes problems for co-ordination with other utility works and with keeping the general public advised on what is happening on the road network locally. The three month advance notice period is generally helpful in achieving this. However, some issues have been experienced when programming major capital works where an external contractor is to be appointed.
6.14 The main reasons given for not supporting the three month advance notice period for major works were:
- This is excessive in rural areas - group one respondents from some rural areas felt that this can be difficult to achieve in their areas where they rely on a smaller, less flexible workforce and where weather plays a part in increasing the numbers of early starts. It was felt that while three months might be appropriate on the main arterial routes within major cities, three months is excessive even on the most heavily trafficked routes in rural areas. For works on these routes, a period of between four and six weeks was suggested as adequate:
"Whilst the three months' notice may be appropriate for routes such as the A977, we believe that for even some of the busier of our rural roads such as the A94 and A91, the three month notice for works which may only last ten days is excessive and leads to unnecessary bureaucracy and notice failures with difficulties of predicting actual start dates for works at a time when contractual arrangements have not been finalised and weather conditions cannot be predicted." (Perth and Kinross Council)
- This period restricts flexibility - the requirement to give three months advanced notice for certain types of works can restrict flexibility and present difficulties within specified time limits e.g. customer driven connections where utilities may be obliged to connect customers within specified time limits. Scottish Water stated that the three month period is too long for programming and planning purposes.
"Estimating start dates this far in advance is difficult as they are affected by changes in our programme and other unforeseen delays over the course of the three month period. The result of relying on the three month advance notice period for major works has increased the number of early starts required to meet programme requirements and customer expectations, and reduced meaningful data and co-ordination on the Register." (Scottish Water)
6.15 Many of the group two respondents stated that, while they fully supported providing notice on works with sufficient advance notice to allow for effective co-ordination, the three month notice does not always work in practice for certain types of customer-driven works (e.g. commercial connections). NJUG argued that this presents difficulties for utilities who are required to connect customers or enhance their services within specified time limits. Utilities often have little advance notice themselves of the customer service contract to supply a new service. Therefore, "a more broad-ranging option is proposed of one month for certain types of customer-driven work and three months for long-term planned works."
- Unintended consequences - The increase in the numbers of early starts was mentioned by respondents in groups one (in rural areas) and two. This in itself was seen by some as an additional administrative burden. There was also the concern that the three months' notice requirement can drive inappropriate behaviours to circumvent the process due to administrative burden, which could lead to works being started without the appropriate permissions being served on the Register.
6.16 Suggestions by those not in support of the three month period included more effective planning and co-ordination earlier in the process which should allow the formal notice period to be reduced from three months:
"The main tool for good co-ordination is quality advance notice of all major works and the introduction of advance notification using 'Potential Works' notices aids this by providing a process for early notification of works (location and duration) without the unnecessary limits of exact start dates (and validity periods)." (SGN)
Comparison of group responses
6.17 Of the 29 respondents who felt the three month period was necessary, 20 were from group one, one was from group two, two were from group three and one was from group four. Of the 14 who thought this period should be reduced, ten respondents were from group two and four were from group one. Those who did not indicate support or otherwise, but made a separate point, were from group two.
Advance Notice Periods - Non Traffic Sensitive Works
Q.19. Do you consider that the requirement to provide advance notice for works on non-traffic sensitive roads should be removed? If you do, what benefits do you consider this would bring?
* All of the four not responding to this question were from group three.
1. The vast majority of respondents from all groups thought that the requirement to provide advance notice for works on non-traffic sensitive roads should be maintained.
2. Ten of the respondents stated that they would recommend a return to one month of notice of major works on non-traffic sensitive roads. This was thought to still allow local co-ordination without being overly burdensome on utilities and roads authorities.
3. There was only one reason given for the benefits that a removal of this would bring.
6.18 Overall, 43 of the 46 respondents who answered this question reported that the requirement to provide advance notice for works on non-traffic sensitive roads should remain/should not be removed. However, eight respondents also stated that they would recommend a return to a one month notice for major works on non-traffic sensitive roads. This was thought to still allow local co-ordination without being overly burdensome on utilities and roads authorities.
6.19 Two of the three respondents who disagreed with this proposal stated that it should be removed, but replaced with a one month period. The one respondent who stated that it should be removed completely stated that it would bring more rapid completion of work, and possibly the ability to help companies maintain a work stream for their work force.
Comparison of group responses
6.20 There was widespread agreement across the groups that the requirement to provide advance notice for works on non-traffic sensitive roads be maintained. However, those who suggested a reduction to one month on non-traffic sensitive roads were more likely to be in group two.
Early Start Procedure
Q.20. Should the early start procedure be a statutory requirement?
* Of the five who did not respond to this question, three were from group three and two were from group one.
1. The majority of respondents agreed that the early start procedure should be a statutory requirement. The main reasons for this were that it would allow flexibility and better co-ordination of works.
2. The main reason for opposing the proposal was that the voluntary use of non-statutory advice is adequate and is a good example of the way in which roads authorities and utility companies co-operate to co-ordinate road works.
3. Seven of the group two respondents who supported this stated that their support was dependent on an agreed RAUC(S) Advice Note.
6.21 The main reasons for agreeing that the early start procedure be a statutory requirement were that it would allow flexibility and better co-ordination of works. It was also perceived that it would improve co-ordination and stop abuse of the system:
"Because a statutory requirement would give greater control in the co-ordination of major works than the code of practice allows for, since its status is open to a degree of abuse." (Dumfries and Galloway Council)
6.22 Seven respondents supported this but only provided it is based on an agreed RAUC(S) Advice Note. Two other respondents stated that this should be accompanied by Fixed Penalty Notices for any breaches.
6.23 The main reason for opposing the proposal was that the voluntary use of non-statutory advice is adequate and does not need to be changed. This was mentioned by five respondents. One respondent expressed the view that it would nullify the benefit of giving advance notice to public transport operators of impending works:
"We believe the voluntary use of the non-statutory Advice Note to be adequate and consider that the process of agreeing early starts is a good example of the roads authority/utility companies co-operation to co-ordinate road works." (Angus Council)
6.24 The alternative views that were expressed were that:
- This is already a statutory provision under S114. Is an amendment to this provision being requested utilising an Advice Note?
- The provisions for this need to be clearly set out and are already included in statute under S114 of NRSWA. If the intention is that the Code of Practice for the Co-ordination of Works in Roads becomes a statutory code of practice, this document would need to be agreed through RAUC(S).
6.25 All others expressed that there were no current issues with the existing voluntary early/late start procedure.
Comparison of group responses
6.26 Over two thirds of respondents (35) supported the proposal, and of these, 22 were from group one, ten were from group two, two were from group three and one was from group four. Six respondents opposed the proposal and, of those, five were from group one and one was from group three. Four respondents offered an alternative view on the proposal (three from group two and one from group one).
Q.21. What are your views on making noon the following day a statutory requirement for commencing urgent works?
* Of the five who did not respond to this question, three were from group three and two were from group one.
1. The majority of respondents did not agree with this proposal. The main reasons given were that this would not fix the problem of misuse of the urgent works classification and that urgent works often cannot be started immediately.
2. Those supporting the proposal thought that this was a reasonable period for the commencement of urgent works; it clarifies the importance of starting genuine urgent works within a fixed timescale; and may deter the use of the 'urgent works' category simply as a means of avoiding statutory notice periods.
3. Both those supporting and opposing this proposal put forward suggestions and comments on how this should or should not be implemented or suggested alternative measures.
6.27 There was some confusion with this question among respondents, and many made comments about their support (or otherwise) for amending the two hour notice period for urgent works, instead of answering the actual question about changing the statutory footing of existing requirements. Although not proposed as part of the consultation, some respondents expressed that the change in noticing time would create additional problems for local authorities in their co-ordination duties. Overall, seven roads authorities stated the current standard of recording urgent works within two hours of commencement should not be changed since:
- The proposed change could lead to significant works and traffic management continuing without the roads authorities' knowledge; and
- Extending to the following day could result in potentially significant works or traffic management taking place without the knowledge of the roads authority.
6.28 Overall, 19 respondents agreed with making noon the following day a statutory requirement for commencing urgent works but most of these respondents included comments about other things they would also like to see added/changed. The main reasons for supporting the proposal were:
- This is a reasonable period for the commencement of urgent works.
- It gives clarity to the importance of starting genuine urgent works within a fixed timescale and encourages a more disciplined approach to commencing these works.
- It will deter the use of the 'urgent works' category simply as a means of avoiding statutory notice periods:
"Scottish Water is satisfied that the current requirements allow the required flexibility to manage works appropriately. There will be circumstances under which urgent works to repair leaks will require to be planned due to complex network operations that require planning, pressure management to protect the network and to minimise disruption to customers." (Scottish Water)
6.29 Other points made by those supporting the proposal (listed in order of the frequency with which they were mentioned) were:
- This should be for non-traffic sensitive roads only and not on traffic sensitive roads as this requires a two hour notice of starting.
- More clarity is required as to what urgent works actually are.
- The onus should still be on the utility company to prove that the works are urgent.
- It is essential that the utility company informs the roads authority as soon as they are aware of the need to begin urgent or emergency works to allow for co-ordination.
- An effective new condition might be the introduction of a mandatory requirement to state the reason for works qualifying as urgent on the notice.
- Would also like it to be established that if works have not started by noon the following day that works cannot be considered urgent.
- Further investigation is required into defects that can be left untouched for weeks/months and then suddenly become urgent.
- It should be a mandatory requirement to include the reason for works.
- It would be useful if another category of works could be established that would allow for works which have an urgency to be carried out, although which cannot be arranged immediately for various reasons. This would allow for at least some advance notification of works and assist with co-ordination.
- Currently works go straight to 'in progress' in the SRWR which causes confusion when attempting to carry out 'sample A inspections' as the start date now has to be checked as well as the works status.
6.30 The main reason for not supporting the proposal was that it would not fix the problem of misuse of the urgent works classification. Several respondents wrote that experience suggested that abuse of the 'urgent' classification is most likely to occur if a works promoter fails to issue the prescribed notice of start date and seeks to avoid a breach of noticing requirements by misclassifying standard works as urgent. Other reasons that support was not given included:
- Sometimes work is urgent but cannot be started immediately, particularly if specialist resources are required. Many of the group two respondents said that while they agreed in principle that works should be noticed on the SRWR as soon as it is known they are required, where specialist resources are required, the earliest opportunity might not be straight away. A planned notice does not cover this situation as the notice period would impose too great a risk (and an early start could not be guaranteed), a minor notice does not cover this either as the duration is too short:
"… whilst in agreement that these should be a degree of urgency to start any works classed as 'urgent' , NJUG would prefer to retain the existing definition of urgent works necessary to repair a primary network failure or restore/prevent a loss of service to customers. There are times when temporary fixes are required which are necessary to return the road to service, whilst securing the necessary specialist apparatus or materials to effect a permanent repair or reinstatement. This doesn't mean works are not urgent, just that the excavation phase may be delayed until the permanent works can take place and be completed without delay." (NJUG)
- It was argued by some that this proposal would give a "perverse incentive" to hold back on placing the notice for known urgent works until the start date and this would undermine the potential for co-ordination.
6.31 Other suggestions made by those not supporting this proposal, but offered as an alternative included:
- The introduction of a mandatory requirement to state the reason for works qualifying as urgent on the notice. This could be by selection from a pick list of the prescribed valid reasons.
- A planned urgent notice which allows a delay in the start date but does not require a specified notice period. This would allow utilities to give an estimated start date but if the situation changed, they would still be permitted to 'go in' before.
- That the existing definition be retained but that the importance of communicating to the road works authority when actual excavation works are due to start is stressed to all works promoters, and agreement is reached with them on the appropriate course of action (taking into account the impact on safety, practical, operational and disruption issues).
Comparison of group responses
6.32 Of the 19 respondents supporting this proposal, 16 were from group one, two were from group three and one was from group four. Of the 24 disagreeing with this proposal, 11 were from group one and the remainder were group two respondents. Those not stating a position included one from group one and one from group three. Utility companies were more likely to discuss the difficulties in starting urgent work immediately, should specialist resources be required.
Road Authority Noticing Obligations
Q.22. Should legislation be introduced to ensure that roads authorities are required to provide the same information as utility companies and to the same timescales?
* Of the six who did not respond to this question, two were from group one, one was group two and three were from group three.
1. The main reasons for supporting the proposals were: ensuring that the fullest and most accurate information is available to the Commissioner; facilitating planning programming and co-ordination of works to the fullest; and achieving parity and equity between both roads authorities and utility companies, i.e. all abiding by the same rules.
2. Despite strong support, there was feeling that the legislation would need to be flexible to allow for different types of works.
3. Those against the proposal felt it unnecessary and bureaucratically burdensome.
6.33 Just under half of respondents (24) expressed outright support for the introduction of legislation to ensure that roads authorities are required to provide the same information as utility companies on the SRWR. The main reasons for supporting the proposals were:
- Ensuring that the fullest and most accurate information is available to the Commissioner:
"Any proposed legislation would greatly aid co-ordination, enhance co-operation and enable much better data analysis to assess both existing and future legislation and voluntary initiatives. It would make sense for all works to be required to provide the same information to the same timescales. The more information the road works community has at its disposal, the better informed the Commissioner will be in formulating any future road works policy, legislation or direction." (BT Openreach)
- Facilitating planning programming and co-ordination of works to the fullest.
- Achieving parity and equity between both roads authorities and utility companies, i.e. all abiding by the same rules:
"The duty to populate the Register with full and correct information as quickly as possible should be placed on all those who have cause to enter data into the Register." (CPT)
6.34 Feelings that there should be parity between the two groups was expressed not only in relation to noticing obligations, but also around performance management for these issues:
"…there should also be parity in performance management of these issues including the inspection regimes and reporting of defects on the road and road works authority apparatus such as gullies." (Scottish Water)
6.35 The notion that both types of organisation should abide by the same rules was also supported by reasoning that the general public do not differentiate between who is undertaking work. This view was put forward by three respondents (including one roads authority):
"Indeed, the general public do not differentiate between roads authority and utility works, and so it would make sense for all works to be required to provide the same information to the same timescales." (Virgin Media)
"The public do not differentiate between works and so it is reasonable to apply the consistency through the same rules and penalties." (Energy Networks Association)
6.36 A view was also expressed that roads authorities should be leading by example and so should therefore abide by the same noticing obligations.
6.37 A total of eight respondents did not agree with the proposals. The main reason that the proposal was not supported was because it was considered that it would be bureaucratically and administratively burdensome for roads authorities, and that the time required to place notices for all works would outweigh the benefits of doing so:
"Any requirement for roads authorities to record reinstatement details would lead to a huge volume of additional work for very little benefit." (Clackmannanshire Council)
6.38 Other reasons that the proposal was not supported included:
- Perceptions that such legislation would not add any value or assist in the co-ordination of works.
- The fact that the road network is a roads authority asset.
- The fact that the roads authorities and utility companies have different responsibilities and so are not comparable in terms of the volume and nature of demands placed upon them:
"Roads authorities and utilities should not have to operate in the same way on the Scottish Roads Work Register. Utilities are able to plan works or respond to urgent works for their individual customers, whilst roads authorities are tasked with maintaining the public asset and ensuring public safety whilst using the road network." (Perth and Kinross Council)
6.39 There were ten responses which could not be classified as either providing direct support or objection to the proposal, all of which were characterised by the view that the legislation needs to be flexible:
"Where information relates to co-ordination, for example, timing and location of works, then roads authorities and utility companies should be required to place the same information on the Register and to the same timescale. Where information relates to excavations and reinstatements, for example, areas, locations and dates of reinstatements, then it should only be required from the utility companies". (Aberdeenshire Council)
6.40 While there was support for the same legislation being applied to both bodies for consistency and co-ordination purposes, one respondent recognised that it would be particularly beneficial for minor, standard and major works, but identified that it could be problematic if also applied to small repairs which arise from safety inspections, since they are more unpredictable and hence more difficult to plan and programme. One authority suggested that roads authorities should only be required to close their completed works on the SRWR and not notice the works as well.
6.41 One respondent from group three supported the proposal in principle but suggested that allowances should be made given the current backlog in the road maintenance programme. They suggested that it may be appropriate to reflect this backlog in any legislation and set a realistic timeframe for introduction.
6.42 One respondent queried the purpose of such legislation since it is the roads authority which has the duty of managing and co-ordinating works and should, therefore, by definition, already be aware of works and their state of completion. Another respondent also expressed that there would be no benefit to roads authorities supplying this information to themselves about their own assets. One other respondent expressed the view that, if all works by third parties are correctly noticed, the remaining works could only belong to roads authorities making the need for the Council's own reinstatement details redundant.
Comparison of group responses
6.43 There was a broadly even split between groups in terms of support for and against this proposal. Nine of those who offered support were from group one, 12 were from group two and three were 'others'. All eight respondents who disagreed outright with the proposal were from roads authorities and related bodies.
Minor Works Involving No or Minimal Excavation
Q.23. Should regulations be introduced to allow roads authorities the flexibility around placing notices for works involving no or minimal excavation on non-traffic sensitive roads?
* Of the seven respondents who did not answer this question, two were from group one, one was from group two and four were from group three.
1. There was considerable support for the introduction of such regulations to formalise practice that is already widely used.
2. Support for flexibility was backed up by feelings that such works are minimally disruptive, have little impact on the public, and would be administratively burdensome to manage otherwise.
3. While people support the introduction of flexibility, clear guidance is needed on the circumstances in which it can be used.
6.44 All but three of those who provided a response to this question were in favour of regulations being introduced to allow roads authorities the flexibility around placing notices for works involving no or minimal excavation on non-traffic sensitive roads.
6.45 The main reasons given for supporting such flexibility were:
- That it is inappropriate to require roads authorities to place notice for works with no or minimal excavation;
- Placing notices for these works does not aid co-ordination in any way;
- These operations cause minimal disruption to the public; and
- Such flexibility would reduce bureaucracy and the administrative burden for roads authorities.
6.46 A specific view was voiced that flexibility with such works would also allow efforts to be concentrated on more disruptive works, which was more appropriate:
"Vodafone believes that flexibility for works with minimal excavation and non-traffic sensitive roads, means that the administrative focus will be on more disruptive works and therefore roads authorities can take steps to mitigate. Vodafone supports the introduction of such regulations subject to parity with undertakers' works." (Vodafone UK)
6.47 Again, a number of respondents supported parity of treatment between roads authorities and utilities in terms of allowing flexibility to "level the playing field". This is important because, as one respondent explained, "the disruption is the same, regardless of who causes it."
6.48 Several respondents also expressed the view that existing guidance on this matter was sufficient and already flexible but that regulations would bring a statutory footing to the current advisory arrangements (others liked the idea that it would be 'formalised').
6.49 While most respondents supported the flexibility, and the main reason was that such works caused minimum disruption, one respondent pointed out that even works involving no excavation can cause disruption if they require traffic management.
6.50 Three respondents felt that, although flexibility was needed, there should be guidance on what constitutes 'minimal' and/or clarity on the circumstances under which this could be done. Guidance was perceived to be important to avoid abuse of the flexibility afforded:
"Any regulation changes should include direction on the definition of 'minimal excavation' as this is open to abuse." (Stirling Council)
6.51 For those who were against the proposal, the main reasons were that all promoters should notify all works on all occasions, for co-ordination purposes and co-operation of works. Introducing flexibility was perceived to remove some of the rigour.
Comparison of group responses
6.52 Two thirds of those supporting the introduction of regulations were roads authorities (26) and one third were utility companies (11). Three other responses in support of the introduction of regulations came from 'other' respondents. The main reasons given in support did not vary by group. The two responses against the introduction of such regulations both came from group one and the respondent proposing that it would be appropriate only if guidance was issued alongside the introduction of regulations was a utility company.
Actual Start Notices
Q.24. Should regulations be introduced to require roads authorities and utility companies to enter actual start notices on to the Scottish Road Works Register?
* Of the nine respondents who did not answer this question, two were from group one, two were group two and five were from group three.
1. There was considerable support for the introduction of such regulations with a view that it would represent best practice and should be encouraged.
2. The main reasons offered in support were improved co-ordination of works, provision of an audit trail and improving knowledge about who else was working in the vicinity (or was planning to).
3. There was support for penalising non-compliance with such regulations, if it was introduced.
6.53 There was unanimous support for regulations to be introduced to require roads authorities and utility companies to enter actual start notices on to the Scottish Road Works Register. All respondents who answered this question provided a supportive response and one expressed that this was a practice that they already encouraged. Another authority felt that it represented "best practice".
6.54 The main reasons given for supporting these regulations were:
- That the regulations would allow for better knowledge and better co-ordination of works;
- Providing greater certainty of who else is working on or in the vicinity, or is planning to and assisting with avoiding disruption with nearby works which may be affected or have an impact elsewhere; and
- Would provide a clear audit trail of the dates of road occupations:
"This will greatly aid co-ordination of works by road works authorities and management of their road networks, as well as providing greater certainty to utilities of who else is working on or in the vicinity of the road(s) on which they are planning to work or are currently working." (NJUG)
6.55 Three respondents (two authorities and one 'other' group respondent) explicitly stated that that entering actual start notices should be a statutory or legal requirement with offences for failures to do so dischargeable by a FPN. One authority suggested that users should be penalised if a start notice is issued without works starting and a view was also expressed that the requirement to enter these notices would improve compliance.
6.56 One respondent suggested that actual start notices will be required if charging for occupation of where work is unreasonably prolonged is introduced.
6.57 One respondent proposed that mandatory actual start notices would greatly assist roads authorities to carry out inspections during the works and would reduce the number of abortive site visits.
Comparison of group responses
6.58 Overall, 41 out of the 50 respondents (82%) answered this question and there was no divergence in views offered by the two main respondent groups i.e. all were supportive. Of the nine who did not respond, most were from 'other' organisations (two were utility companies and two were roads authorities).
Q.25. Is the current requirement for actual start notices to be lodged by noon the following day for all works in roads, including traffic sensitive routes, acceptable? Please can you explain your answer.
* Of the seven respondents who did not answer this question, two were from group one, one was from group two and four were from group three.
1. Responses were mixed with most people either supporting the current requirements, or suggesting that notices could/should be lodged sooner where possible. The consensus was for the most up-to-date information to be available as possible.
2. Existing requirements were seen to be practical, achievable and realistic and be sufficiently generous to allow the most accurate data possible to be entered.
3. Where people expressed a view for longer lodgement periods, this was due to perceived problems in transmitting data from remote areas. This was a minority view.
6.59 Responses to this question were quite mixed, with a large majority supporting the current requirement, but others expressing a view that it needed to be changed, either to allow more time for notices to be lodged or for notices to be lodged sooner.
6.60 Just under one third (30 respondents) agreed that the current requirement for actual start notices to be lodged by 12 noon the following day for all works was acceptable. The main reason given for agreeing with the current requirement was that it seemed to work well and was practical, achievable and realistic, striking a sensible balance between ensuring certainty that the works have commenced and making sure that information on the Register is as up-to-date as possible:
"The current requirements establish a reasonable achievable timescale. All organisations involved would find it difficult to provide accurate information to a shorter timescale." (Stirling Council)
6.61 One view against the earlier notification was that, given that works can begin at any time of the day, including after 4.30p.m., such works can only be recorded the following day. This was supported by another respondent who pointed out that most offices do not have staff that work nights and so time is needed the following morning to investigate and contact relevant bodies to confirm what works programmes have commenced, and then notice them.
6.62 It is important to note that many of those who supported the status quo with regards to registration requirements also expressed that this should not prevent earlier registration, if possible:
"Of course, the noon next day deadline should act as a backstop and wherever possible all works promoters should aim to confirm the actual start of works as soon as possible, and where they are working in particularly busy roads unexpectedly we would urge them to telephone the road works authority to alert them of their works before submitting the formal actual start notice." (South West Water)
6.63 Another respondent explained that they found it acceptable, but acknowledged that "most will do better" and one utility company stressed that, even if the requirements remained the same, "all works promoters should aim to confirm the actual start of works as soon as possible." A further respondent said that although they supported the current timescales, they would encourage timeliness especially for traffic sensitive roads:
"Vodafone believes the "noon the next day" is appropriate and gives added certainty that the information is correct before it is record on the SRWR. However, on traffic sensitive roads, we encourage timely notices as soon as possible, once the situation on site is confirmed, without regulation being imposed. This will provide clarity on current works on the network and assist with avoiding disruption with nearby works, which may be affected or have an impact elsewhere." (Vodafone UK)
6.64 Eleven respondents expressed views in support of notices being lodged sooner, the main reasons being that, for traffic sensitive roads, it would permit better journey planning, especially for bus operators, if notices were lodged the same day. The general feeling was that the current requirement should be strengthened for traffic sensitive routes and a view was put forward that it would be beneficial if the noticing period could reflect the cases of road or high volume flows.
6.65 Two respondents suggested that, although the existing requirements were adequate for most purposes, some flexibility may be needed to accommodate different types of works with periods defined on a case-by-case basis:
"The current requirement is adequate for most purposes. However, there could be a benefit in requiring a higher level of precision in information relating to the most disruptive works. This might involve earlier registration of the actual start but an alternative might be a notice of proposed start to be placed the previous day." (Aberdeenshire Council)
6.66 Where the works involve special engineering difficulty, pre-registering was also put forward as an alternative option.
6.67 Another roads authority agreed that there may be benefit in requiring a higher level of precision of information on the SRWR and suggested that this might involve earlier registration of the actual start by the close of the actual start date.
6.68 A view was also expressed that, given current technology, it should be possible to advise on the day that works start and within two hours of actual starts, allowing exceptions only for urgent and emergency works. Another respondent explained that:
"Increasingly "real-time" information is now seen as the norm and road users want to know what is happening instantly and accurately. Many agencies and commercial services are engaged in collecting this information and disseminating it to assist in making better use of the road network, reducing congestion and making travel more efficient and enabling the traveller to be better informed e.g. local radio stations, Traffic Scotland etc. It would perhaps be seen as counter-intuitive in today's electronic information-oriented world to provide and confirm such information almost 24 hours late." (Strathclyde Partnership for Transport)
6.69 Only two respondents (both from group two) suggested that the noticing requirement period needed to be extended. The main reason was that trying to notice works any sooner was also seen as problematic for remote areas of Scotland where transmission of data is a challenge:
"Whilst we endeavour to serve actual start notices by noon on the following working day, Scottish Power's preference would be for actual start notices to be lodged by close on the following working day for all works. The geographical areas across Scotland make it difficult for all the information to be transmitted in these timescales. This would also be in line with the requirements in England." (Scottish Power)
6.70 Finally, some respondents also expressed a view against decreasing the time allowed to enter information onto the Register for emergency and urgent works since these often go straight to 'in progress' and having to enter information any sooner may lead to incorrect information being placed on the Register just to meet the timescale, rather than inputting the most accurate information. Indeed, concerns about the inaccurate entry of information in the event of the introduction of shorter timescales was raised by several respondents. Such responses were slightly misguided, however, since, for emergency and urgent works, the actual start notice is required to be placed either two hours before or after commencement of works depending upon the traffic sensitivity of the road. Although this notice is deemed to be an actual start notice for the purposes of the Code of Practice for the Co-ordination of Works in Roads, it is legally a S114 Notice of Starting Date or a S116 Emergency Works Notice, so would be unaffected by the proposal to change the time period for giving an actual start.
Comparison of group responses
6.71 There was agreement between both utility companies and roads authorities that existing requirements are acceptable. The main differences in group responses was that roads authorities were more likely to support earlier noticing than utility companies. Of those suggesting faster lodging of notices, seven were roads authorities or other public bodies and three were utility companies. Both respondents who suggested that more time was needed (i.e. to convey information from remote areas) were utility companies.
Works Closed Notices
Q.26. Is the current requirement for works closed notices to be lodged by the end of the next working day a reasonable period? What alternative period would you propose for traffic sensitive roads and what are the advantages or disadvantages?
* Of the seven respondents who did not answer this question, one was from group one, two were from group two and four were from group three.
1. Overall, the current requirements were seen as satisfactory and were perceived to work well and be realistic and achievable for all.
2. Many respondents would like to see works closed notices lodged as soon as possible, and ahead of the end of the next working day. Suggestions for alternative time periods included noon the next day or by the end of the same day.
3. Only two people expressed a view for longer lodgement periods, and this was again due to perceived problems in transmitting data from remote areas as well as to allow supervisors to carry out their work effectively.
6.72 The majority of respondents (33) felt that the current requirement for works closed notices to be lodged by the end of the next working day was a reasonable period.
6.73 Many of the reasons cited in support of the current requirement were similar to those offered for start notices (i.e. existing arrangements are perceived to work well and are realistic and achievable for all). The view was that the works closed notices were less critical than starts, because they effectively reduce potential delays and problems rather than increasing them.
6.74 While the current arrangement was seen as working well, some improvements were suggested, again similar to those put forward for start notices, including possible benefits in requiring a higher level of precision of information relating to the most disruptive works, or for work on strategic roads:
"There may be a benefit in requiring a greater accuracy of the information that is provided. This is especially important for the most disruptive works being carried out or for work on a strategic road. Registering a 'works closed', i.e. the road is now open, on the day of completion of such works, might be more appropriate. This would allow for better co-ordination of the road network and allow roads authorities to notify customers of changes and an end to delays." (City of Edinburgh Council)
6.75 Again, several respondents expressed the view that information should not be issued any later and, in practice, may be impossible to achieve any earlier. The end of the next day should perhaps be seen as a backstop, with encouragement of earlier lodgement wherever possible.
6.76 One respondent suggested that, while existing time requirements were satisfactory, works closed notices should be notified directly to the Network Manager.
6.77 Overall, eight respondents suggest that works closed notices should and could be lodged sooner, the most popular time frame being the end of the same working day. One authority suggested that a more appropriate timeframe would be noon the following day, and another respondent suggested 'real time' closure is something that should be considered in the future:
"Would suggest lodge by noon the following day for all roads. For traffic sensitive streets Dumfries and Galloway Council approach is for close contact with utilities, to allow reversion to normal operation to be carried out quickly when works complete". (Dumfries and Galloway Council)
6.78 The main reasons offered for preferring a quicker period for lodging works closed notices were:
- Earlier notices would allow consideration of another application to use the road space; and
- In high traffic sensitive areas, it may be very useful to know exactly when works are closed due to the adverse effects they may have on normal traffic routes.
6.79 Another respondent expressed the view that, while the existing timescales were appropriate and did not need amending for traffic sensitive roads, there may be benefit in earlier notice if the network was busy/in demand among those waiting to do works:
"Vodafone believes that the existing requirement for works closed notices to be received by the end of the following day is acceptable and does not need amendment for traffic-sensitive roads. However, where the network is busy and other promoters are waiting for space to commence their works, it is recognised that a works closed notice as soon as practicable would aid co-ordination." (Vodafone UK)
6.80 Others also welcomed improvements that could be made to providing information earlier for areas of high volume traffic and asserted that it would beneficial if noticing periods could reflect the class of road or traffic flow.
6.81 Another respondent highlighted the value of earlier notice periods for road users as justification for more timely lodging of notices:
"If a bus company has built in a lot of extra time into a route because they're expecting to face congestion due to road works only to find out that the road works have unexpectedly closed early then the route will likely run faster than scheduled. This puts the bus company at risk of early running and could see them brought in front of the Traffic Commissioner to explain their failure to run to time. Given the relative ease in updating the SRWR and the fact that it will likely be possible for the utility company or local authority to gauge how ongoing works are progressing, CPT would like to see works closed notices lodged within at least half a day of works closing. However, as mentioned before, CPT's preference remains that utility companies and local authorities input accurate start and finish dates into the SRWR before road works commence and then keep to those predicted dates." (CPT)
6.82 While some people suggested the speedier entry of works closed notices, it was recognised that the disadvantage may be in the administrative burden that it would place on the organisation to raise the notice. Others recognised that some roads authorities have difficulty in closing works during local public holidays and so some flexibility in the process may be needed.
6.83 As with start notices, some respondents suggested that current technology should be explored to encourage the use of hand-held devices to enable notification of works by operatives/supervisors on site, making it as timeous as possible. Overall, the view was that the closure of works could potentially be expedited more quickly, mitigating disputes within other sections of NRSWA.
6.84 Only two respondents suggested a longer time frame for lodging works closed notices. Again, the main arguments put forward for later lodgement were the fact that works can be completed at any time of the day, including after working hours (in which case they would need to be lodged the next morning) and problems with transmission of data in remote areas of Scotland which may delay the process.
6.85 One respondent also expressed that the current deadline was too restrictive in terms of works supervision:
"No - the period is too short and does not allow for peripatetic supervisors to carry out their duties efficiently or effectively. A period of two working days is a more realistic requirement." (Perth and Kinross Council)
6.86 An element of flexibility regarding delay was also called for by one respondent in the event of unforeseen circumstances. A two hour extension window was proposed for such exceptions but it was acknowledged that this would need to be carefully policed to prevent organisations from circumventing the original deadline.
Comparison of group responses
6.87 The majority of those in both groups one and two supported current requirements and there were no notable differences in the justifications given by group. Of the two people who suggested longer periods for lodging notices, one was from group one and one was from group two.
Q.27. Should we reduce the validity period to a maximum of two days and should it apply to both utility companies and roads authorities alike? If you consider that a different validity period would be appropriate, please state the period and provide the reasons for your view.
* Of the seven respondents who did not answer this question, two were from group one, one was from group two and four were from group three.
1. Most respondents were in favour of leaving the validity periods as they are at present, the main reason being that they afford flexibility in the case of unanticipated delays to start of works.
2. The main reasons given in support of the reduction of the validity period to a maximum of two days were to assist in co-ordination of works with more accuracy in relation to actual start dates.
3. Respondents supported the idea that utilities and roads works authorities should be treated the same with regards to validity periods.
6.88 This question produced some relatively lengthy and detailed responses, compared to other sections of the consultation.
6.89 Overall, respondents agreed that the validity periods should be the same for utilities and roads authorities.
6.90 Most respondents (31) felt that the existing validity periods should remain the same. The main reasons for this were:
- That the existing periods allowed flexibility for all parties in the case of slippage. This is important because some works are delayed due to unforeseen circumstances (e.g. bad weather) or as a result of delays in earlier scheduled works. Operational and/or customer reasons were also cited for potential delays of a few days along with emergency or urgent works, plant failure, reinstatement material availability in the event of unexpected works, parked vehicles and difficult site conditions.
- Reducing the validity period to two days may have a negative impact on staff resources and clog up the SRWR with potential changes required whereas the current system allows flexibility.
- To give allowance for investigatory works, identifying defects as well as providing flexibility for plant and labour resources.
- The benefits of reducing the period would be outweighed by an increase in noticing activity.
- To meet customer expectations and deliver works effectively.
- Reducing validity periods will cause additional noticing problems and may increase late starts, cancelled notices and new notices with requests for early starts.
- Reducing the period would have a direct impact on cost.
6.91 Views were also expressed that there was no evidence to suggest that existing periods were at all problematic:
"No evidence has been provided that the current validity periods are causing delays or other issues with co-ordination of road works. The Scottish Road Works Register allows for self co-ordination through highlighting potential conflicts between works at the proposed works stage." (Scottish Water)
6.92 Two respondents also expressed that current periods reflected the reality of carrying out road works:
"The validity period allows utilities (and road works authorities) to re-arrange work schedules at short notice which is the reality of carrying out road works, and some flexibility is necessary to allow for slippage, without which there would be a need to issue new notices, which would be administratively onerous and potentially confusing for road works authorities receiving them." (Virgin Media)
6.93 Some respondents who were against the two day period did agree that the period could perhaps be reduced 'slightly', although no specific suggestions for timescales were given. Two respondents suggested that durations should be mutually agreed and, wherever possible, bespoke noticing should be utilised.
6.94 Some authorities suggested that flexibility be built in for the most disruptive works, in line with comments made about start notices above:
"Roads authorities and utility companies both require a degree of flexibility in scheduling works in order to deploy their resources effectively. Works involving investigating and correcting a problem are often unpredictable in duration and some works are weather dependent. The current validity periods allow for this flexibility and should be retained for most works. However, there could be a benefit in requiring a higher level of precision for the most disruptive works…this could take the form of a requirement to input a firm start date one day in advance of the works." (Aberdeenshire Council)
6.95 One respondent expressed the view that problems with co-ordination that arise as a result of the current seven day flexibility should be redundant if 'actual start' notices are compulsory.
6.96 Among those who supported the reduction of the validity period to a maximum of two days, the main reason given for their support was to assist in co-ordination of works with more accuracy in relation to actual start dates:
"We believe that the validity period should be reduced to a maximum period of two days. If an authority is trying to co-ordinate a number of different works from different works promoters over a period of time and everyone required seven days delay to their works it would be very difficult to achieve." (BT Openreach)
6.97 One respondent representing an 'other' organisation suggested that the period should be shortened to reflect improvements in communication technology and thus the two day period seemed appropriate.
6.98 One authority who supported the suggested two day period suggested that the proposed statutory requirement to record the actual start date would have to be in effect to make it workable and the FPN scheme could be applied to organisations that do not start on the day in the notice. This may encourage behaviour change by all organisations.
6.99 Finally, among those supporting the two day period, respondents still pointed out that some degree of flexibility may be needed. One respondent explained that they would support the proposal as long as it referred to two 'working days' and as long as some flexibility was also built in when considering performance reports to allow for problems such as weather conditions affecting works - this would need to be recorded on the notice.
6.100 One respondent provided a response which could not be easily classified but suggested that the flexibility afforded to both utilities and roads authorities under the validity period was not fair for the travelling public, regardless of the timescale:
"Allowing for road works to shift their start date - by giving utility companies and roads authorities a validity period of seven days or even just one day - undoes all previous planning. The consultation should better consider the needs of the travelling public against the desire of utility companies and roads authorities to have the freedom to begin road works as and when they wish." (CPT)
Comparison of group responses
6.101 Between all groups, the most common response was to support retaining existing seven day validity periods. Of the 31 respondents who supported the current period, 20 were from group one and 11 were from group two. Roads authorities were slightly more likely to support a reduction in the period to two days (six of the nine people who supported the reduction represented roads authorities compared to one utility company and two 'other' respondents).
Duration of Works
Q.28. Should roads authorities be provided with statutory powers to impose maximum durations for works on utility companies?
* Of the seven respondents who did not answer this question, three were from group one, one was from group two and three were from group three.
1. There was a notable split in views both in support and against this proposal. Most of those supporting statutory powers to impose maximum durations for works on utility companies were roads authorities.
2. Strong views were expressed by utility companies that only they possessed the requisite technical skills, knowledge and experience to be able to appropriately gauge durations required for works.
3. Several respondents felt that New Roads and Street Works Act (NRSWA) Section 115 already adequately covers this issue. Therefore, it was proposed that greater penalties should exist for ignoring NRSWA Section 115 directions, rather than allowing roads authorities to dictate the duration of utility companies' works.
6.102 Overall, 43 out of the 50 respondents (86%) answered this question and there was a clear difference in responses by group. Most of those supporting statutory powers to impose maximum durations for works on utility companies were roads authorities, although those against the proposals were split evenly between groups.
6.103 The main reasons given in support of this proposal were:
- That it would allow better control over the booking of road space for effectively minor works.
- Enhanced powers may reduce some of the current disruption that can be caused to traffic by major road closures where work is not complete.
- Works needs to be effectively assessed beforehand and maximum times set by the local authority to ensure that road possession and the associated disruption is minimised.
6.104 Among those who supported the proposal, views about its likely success were somewhat tentative. Respondents suggested that it would be difficult to challenge utility companies and difficult to assess the utilities work content.
6.105 Several respondents who supported the proposal (as well as some who did not) pointed out that the New Roads and Street Works Act (NRSWA) Section 115 already adequately covers this issue. Therefore, it was proposed that greater penalties should exist for ignoring NRSWA Section 115 directions, rather than allowing roads authorities to dictate the duration of utility companies' works. Another respondent pointed out that very few directions have been issued under current powers relating to the timing of works and so it is likely that such matters will continue to be resolved by agreement in most cases.
6.106 Of the 24 respondents who did not support the proposal, 12 were from roads authorities and 12 were represented utilities. The main reasons given against the proposal were:
- That the roads authorities do not possess the technical knowledge to assess whether utility works can be reasonably completed within an imposed duration.
- Utility companies are best placed and more experienced to determine the required duration based on networks, customers, engineering difficulty, commercial constraints, etc. in collaboration with the contractor.
- Lack of technical knowledge among roads authorities may lead to a situation where utility companies are working longer hours/overnight working through unrealistic timescales, compromising health and safety, etc., which would go against the principles of co-ordination and accountability.
- It is better to complete works within the programmed duration than having a dispute when the utility company fails to complete work by a date imposed on them by the roads authority.
- Undue pressure to reduce durations to an unsustainable level with the imposition from road works authorities of 'maximum periods within which works must be completed' could potentially lead to decreased safety and quality and the need to return at a later date, effectively increasing overall works durations.
"Vodafone and our contractors understand our business and therefore should be able to determine work durations to ensure prompt delivery of service and to ensure reinstatement quality. Pressures from roads authorities to reduce durations may affect quality and result in remedial works visits at a later date. However, early discussions with our construction teams are encouraged where works are likely to be more disruptive, to find ways of work to lessen that risk. We believe that roads authorities should not be given extra powers for duration challenges." (Vodafone)
6.107 Feelings were expressed that agreeing durations should be part of the initial discussion with utility companies as part of co-ordination and co-operation and any issues should be resolved through negotiation, as is the case at present:
"This should be done through discussion where there are specific problems, however, if charging for occupation where work is unreasonably prolonged is introduced, then authorities may get the opportunity to challenge durations. Also, powers exist to ensure that works are carried out with all such dispatch as is reasonably practical." (JAG UK)
6.108 Two respondents suggested that the duration of works would be better controlled by lane rental, as long as the lane rental costs reflect the value of the road to the travelling public i.e. higher costs for strategic roads.
6.109 Other responses included that:
- Durations dictated by roads authorities would only be suitable for a specific reason (e.g. works created in conflict with other works; over-run conflicting with an event like a parade; over-run conflicting with Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 occupation.)
- Statutory powers would not be necessary in rural areas but could significantly improve works times in city centres or on busy bus routes where disruption is multiplied by not utilising weekend working, etc.
- It would be beneficial if the Commissioner could monitor the duration periods of notice types and confirm if it is acceptable to put 14 or 21 days for everything.
Comparison of group responses
6.110 This question produced a clear split in opinion between groups with all those offering strong support for the proposal representing roads authorities and related bodies. Although those against the proposal were split evenly between utility companies and authorities (12 in each case), the strongest views against the introduction of regulations were proffered by utility companies.
Q.29. Should roads authorities be given statutory powers to impose embargoes on works for reasons other than traffic disruption?
* Of the six respondents who did not answer this question, one was from group one, one was from group two and two were from group three.
1. All of those who supported the proposal were respondents from roads authorities and related bodies. There was no support for the statutory introduction of embargoes among utility companies and related organisations.
2. Those who supported the introduction of statutory powers in this regard felt that it would formalise a voluntary system that was already working well.
3. Most of those against the introduction of statutory powers in this regard also felt that the present voluntary system was working well and so did not need a statutory footing.
6.111 This question was well answered with 44 out of the 50 respondents (88%) providing a response. The issue again provided a clear split in responses between groups with 18 of the 20 respondents who supported the proposal representing roads authorities and related bodies. The remaining two respondents who supported the proposal were 'other' organisations/individuals. This means that none of the utility companies and related organisations who responded supported the introduction of statutory power to impose embargoes on works for reasons other than traffic disruption.
6.112 Among those who supported the introduction of statutory powers in this regard, the following reasons were offered:
- Statutory powers would permit more control for authorities over important local community and civic events which are important in the community. It is important that such events have access to the road asset;
- It would seem common sense to channel non-essential road works into periods where traffic is likely to be reduced (and statutory powers would allow for this);
- Councils should have powers to direct that major works be avoided during the peak tourist season; and
- Statutory powers would introduce a formal process to signify embargoes.
6.113 One respondent expressed the view that the introduction of statutory powers would remove any areas of ambiguity and stressed that the introduction was timely given a preference for greater use of road spaces to host local events in rural areas:
"This would clarify any grey areas where roads authority officers may feel uncomfortable dealing with voluntary agreements for embargoes that relate to certain events. Particularly relevant as the road becomes increasingly the venue of choice for many 'community' events." (Shetland Islands Council)
6.114 The introduction of statutory powers for such embargoes was also welcomed in the capital city, given the large volume of events that it hosts:
"Major sporting events, major venue concerts, Festival/Fringe, Hogmanay, visits by VIPs, long planned charity events, marches and protests etc., have the potential to be seriously disrupted by utility works. Such events also use the road asset and are an important for the communities that Councils serve. Especially in the Capital City, and being the seat of the Scottish Parliament. The City of Edinburgh Council believe that the current voluntary agreements should be regularised and roads authorities given statutory powers to impose embargoes on utility works." (City of Edinburgh Council)
6.115 One respondent expressed a view that, if introduced, it would be useful if a facility could be provided on the Register to log embargoes.
6.116 It is important to note that, among those who supported the introduction of statutory powers in this regard, there was still acknowledgement that the current system works well. Many also stressed that their support was dependent on powers being used in a reasonable and justified way.
6.117 Among those who did not support the introduction of statutory powers for embargoes, the main reasons given were that:
- The present voluntary system gives more flexibility;
- Utility companies already work well under the current voluntary system with the local authority to avoid disrupting special events/accommodate (since no one wants the associated negative publicity that would be associated with disrupting high profile events). Current levels of co-operation are good and the current arrangements for voluntary embargoes works well provided that the responsible authority consults all parties, including strategic authorities, in good time:
"NJUG's strong preference would be for road works authorities and utilities to continue to, or start to share plans of major works and upcoming events in order to facilitate planned voluntary embargoes on roads when necessary. The road works community has a long and proud track record in managing the flexing of works, and complying with voluntary embargoes…NJUG believes that this should continue without the need for embargoes to be placed on statutory footing." (NJUG)
- It would be difficult to set down in statute a definitive list of circumstances where embargoes on works would be appropriate.
- Such embargoes may conflict with regulatory requirements that are set out to give enhanced value to utilities customers:
"We do not agree. Embargoes are given currently and we strive to comply with the requirements. However, Scottish Power has a duty to comply with our statutory obligations so imposing embargoes could restrict our works. The consultation does not provide any justification or analysis to substantiate providing roads authorities with the statutory powers to impose embargoes on works for reasons other than traffic disruption." (Scottish Power Energy Networks)
6.118 Several respondents queried the economic reasons set out for the possible introduction of such embargoes and were keen to stress the potentially negative economic consequences to utilities if too many embargoes were imposed:
"Utilities undertake road works for four main reasons - safety, security of supply, connecting new customers or enhancing existing customers' supplies, or diverting apparatus for major transport or urban regeneration projects. Utilities are investing billions of pounds to deliver safe and secure utility services which underpin the UK economy. They are therefore a major contributor to economic growth in their own right and through providing essential utility services for new houses and businesses. Therefore, having statutory powers to impose embargoes on utility works could have very significant negative consequences." (South West Water)
6.119 Four respondents explained that they were not aware of voluntary embargoes not being adhered to and suggested that there was no evidence that they had not been, therefore making them question the need for statutory power i.e. there is no evidence to justify changing a well-established arrangement.
6.120 Among utility companies, therefore, it seems that there is a preference for roads authorities and utilities to continue to share plans and work together to avoid the need for statutory powers being imposed.
6.121 Only three respondents provided 'other' responses to this questions. One suggested that any additional powers would need to be clarified (and so did not provide a statement in support or against), one respondent suggested that, while the idea was welcomed in principle, there would be challenges in achieving the correct balance of exemptions, e.g. emergency/urgent works where the system could be bypassed. The third respondent set out some of the perceived complexities of imposing such embargoes:
"This issue is complex in that the current voluntary system works well and is flexible enough to allow it to work. Major sporting events, community and charity events all have the potential to be impacted by utility works. These events have a strong community influence and must be considered as appropriate. Legislative imposition of a definitive list of embargo circumstances may be too prescriptive." (North Lanarkshire Council)
Comparison of group responses
6.122 As discussed above, there was a clear divide of opinion between those in group one and those in group two with regards to the introduction of statutory powers to impose embargoes on works for reasons other than traffic disruption. There was no support for this introduction among any of the utility companies or related bodies who responded.
Definition of "working day"
Q.30. Do you agree with the definition of a working day given above?
1. More than half of respondents supported the definition on the basis that it was clear, relevant and locally appropriate.
2. The main reason for not agreeing with the definition was that respondents felt that the definition of working day in Section 157(2) of NRSWA was already satisfactory, with a definition of bank holiday exclusions.
3. The large majority of those who agreed with the definition were representing authorities (24 out of 29 who agreed) and the majority of those who did not agree were representing utilities (eight out of the 11 who did not agree).
6.123 The consultation document set out a proposed revised definition of 'working day' as follows:
"Working day (regulation 2(1) of SI 2008 No88), which is a day other than a Saturday, Sunday or the public holidays for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and the day following New Year's Day; and a notice given after 16:30 on a working day is to be treated as given on the next working day."
6.124 Over half of those who responded to this question (58%) supported the proposed new definition of a working day given in the consultation. The main reasons given in support of the definition were that it is clear, allows greater flexibility and reflects Scottish circumstances, taking cognisance of local trade holidays.
6.125 Those who did not support the definition, provided the following reasons:
- The definition of working day in Section 157(2) of NRSWA should stand as it is, with a definition of bank holiday exclusions;
- It does not take into account local public holidays which are not recognised by the Register and cause issues with recording notices; and
- It affects the statistics for compliance of noticing if a notice is late because of public holidays, etc. There should be the capacity within the SRWR to input the local holidays of each organisation, or at least have the failures caused by such events removed from the statistics.
6.126 Two respondents who opposed the definition questioned the evidence to support the statement that 'many organisations now do not take bank holidays', (paragraph 5.27 of the consultation document).
6.127 Other responses, each offered by one respondent, were:
- Restricting the time for a notice to be given to 16:30 to count as that working day appears to be unnecessarily restrictive and will continue to cause potential Fixed Penalty Notices in the Scottish Road Works Register with no way of managing this to maintain compliance.
- Many organisations will work up to and beyond 17:00 and in order to reach 16:30 peripatetic supervisors may lose valuable site time by returning to the office early. It was suggested that the working day should extend to, say, 19:00 hours.
- The definition should be extended to include Good Friday, Easter Monday and May Day, assuming that these are 'standard' public holidays for the vast majority of roads authority staff, at least. Consideration should also be given to the possibility of the Commissioner (perhaps on instruction from Scottish Ministers) being able to add "events" to the 'standard' non-working days (e.g. Queen's Jubilee, Royal Weddings, state funerals).
Comparison of group responses
6.128 A large majority, 43 out of the 50 respondents (86%), answered this question and most of those who did not were from 'other' organisations. The large majority of those who agreed with the definition were representing authorities (24 out of 29 who agreed) and the majority of those who did not agree were representing utilities (eight out of the 11 who did not agree).
Summary of Co-ordination of Works
6.129 The consultation questions around roads works co-ordination generated much discussion and there were several cases where clear disparity between roads authorities and utility companies were observed. In many cases, respondents felt that parity should be sought between both groups, especially around information provision and the placing of notices. Flexibility, improved co-ordination and better planning seem to be key themes across the section, and ensuring availability of up-to-date and accurate information is something that all parties seem keen to achieve.