7. OTHER ISSUES
7.1 This final section sought views on issues not specifically raised elsewhere in the consultation. This is a common format for consultation documents, and allowed for comments to be made on management of road works, innovations and potential financial costs associated with various consultation proposals.
7.2 The first question invited respondents to identify issues relating to the way in which road works are managed and undertaken that had not been covered elsewhere in the consultation. For example, comments on existing ways of working, as well as any perceived limitations with existing legislation or documented processes. A second, more specific question sought views on any potential innovations in works on roads that could contribute to improving the way in which works are managed and provided an opportunity for respondents to flag examples of good practice. The final question invited feedback on any potential additional costs associated with any of the proposals outlined in the consultation, should they be introduced.
7.3 Unlike other areas of the consultation, responses offered to these three final questions were quite disparate and could not be easily clustered into common themes. This section therefore presents a number of different issues, some of which were raised by single respondents and thus may not necessarily be generalisable between groups or across the wider Scottish road works community.
Q.31. Issues Not Covered In The Foregoing
* Of the six respondents who did not provide a response to this question, three were from group one, one was from group two and two were from group three.
7.4 A total of 40 separate responses were provided to this question. Four respondents specifically stated that they had no comments/views or issues to add and the remaining six indicated that a response was either 'not applicable' or provided no information at all.
7.5 A large number of respondents used question 31 to comment on road works policy and other regulations, often with the theme that there appear to be confusing messages set out in the various guidance and statutes governing how road works operate. In particular, a view was expressed that the policy regulating road works on Scottish roads should dovetail better with the Scottish Government's wider strategic aims. As such, the aims of road works policy should look to allow for the upkeep of utilities and road surfaces while minimising disruption, rather than the disruption element being be an afterthought:
"More effective and consistent use of the myriad of existing legislation and regulation will deliver the Scottish Government's objectives of improved standards and reduced disruption, without impacting on growth or unnecessarily pushing up utility consumers' bills or prices for connection." (Virgin Media)
7.6 A number of comments related to the possible review or amendment of sections of the New Roads and Street Works Act (NRSWA), including:
- That consideration should be given to removal and replacement of Sections 132A, 132B, 132C, 132D and 137A, with wording to positively encourage utilities to trench-share and co-ordinate works with roads authorities surfacing programmes.
- There should be compatibility between (or at least a recognition of the significance of the difference between) notice periods under NRSWA and the statutory notice periods for road closures, which may be longer.
- Change in the timescale for giving direction under Section 115 since the current timings are too short.
7.7 Three respondents commented that Section 56 of the Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 should also be incorporated into NRSWA. It is currently missing from NRSWA and can be issued for significant road works which do not involve installation of apparatus e.g. a new road junction or construction of a roundabout. Another respondent suggested that the legislation required to be amended to clarify that the definition of apparatus within all Codes of Practice includes all underground plant such as pipes, cables and ducts (not just surface ironwork and access chambers). One respondent expressed that utility companies should be required to carry out coring programmes to demonstrate compliance with the Specification for the Reinstatement of Openings in Roads (SROR), which would drive improvements in the quality of reinstatements, it was perceived.
7.8 Other comments were provided regarding the possible review of Codes of Practice and Advice Notes to ensure that they are fit for purpose, including:
- A review of Advice Note 18. The procedure is influenced by the hearing body, made up of authority representatives, and there is currently no recourse for appeal, leaving issues unresolved (mentioned by four respondents, all from group two); and
- A review of the Code of Practice for Dispute Resolution and Appeals which allows for disputes related to failed inspections to be heard by a panel drawn from the Area RAUCs and RAUC(S). Again, currently, where agreement cannot be reached between the co-chairs, or the decision is not accepted by both parties, there is no further recourse to resolve these disputes:
"Openreach believe there is a need to review the Code of Practice for Dispute Resolution and Appeals as neither the straightforward procedure (first stage) nor the escalation procedure (second stage) results in concluding the dispute or appeal. Openreach also feel there is an opportunity to review Advice Note 18, (procedure for the conduct of hearings under NRSWA 1991 and The Roads (Scotland) Act 1984) as the procedure is heavily influenced by the hearing body, which is wholly made up of authority representatives, and gives no rights to appeal." (Openreach)
7.9 Other areas of potential conflict in guidance were identified as inconsistencies between SROR and the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) guidance with regards to tolerances for trips on footways and the need for a review of the Road Works (Qualifications of Supervisors and Operatives) (Scotland) Regulations to ensure consistent training and accreditation standards throughout the UK for operatives and supervisors working on roads.
7.10 Another theme covered in several responses to this question was inspections. All such comments were made by roads authority respondents and included:
- A Code of Practice similar to the Code of Practice for Well Maintained Highways for utilities to inspect their reinstatements up to the end of guarantee period and their apparatus on a regular basis would be welcomed. At present, there appears to be no inspection regime other than a reliance on roads authorities to report defects to the utility. A formalised Code of Practice with inspection timescales would ensure reinstatements and apparatus was inspected and maintained, therefore reducing defects and the necessity for urgent and emergency works (the same response was offered by two separate roads authority respondents).
- Utility companies should be required to inspect their works and the works of their contractors and record these inspections on the SRWR.
- There should be guidance issued to the utilities as to the inspection regimes that should be carried out to monitor their own contractors. At present it seems that the utilities are relying on the general public or the roads authorities to bring substandard reinstatement/traffic control etc. to their attention.
- There is no requirement for utility companies to regularly inspect their apparatus under S.140. They can simply rely on roads authority safety inspections to notify them of defects. However, due to the lack of inspections, roads authorities are also having to respond to third party enquiries relating to these defects. Currently, the Code of Practice only allows inspection fees to be charged should the roads authority encounter a high risk defect. The defect inspection process for apparatus should mirror that for failed reinstatements allowing roads authorities to recover costs for carrying out all repeat defect inspections of utilities' apparatus. This would help encourage early attention to reported apparatus defects.
- All roads authorities' follow-up DA2 inspections, carried out when a utility has failed to repair their defective apparatus within the agreed timescales, should be rechargeable to the utility.
- The defect inspection process for apparatus should mirror that for reinstatements and allow further chargeable inspections to be undertaken to ensure remedial work is carried out within a reasonable timescale. Legislation should be changed to allow a fee for any defects discovered.
- With regards to signing, lighting and guarding of road works, utility companies should be required to carry out daily checks on open sites. Some utility companies already undertake this practice but others can leave sites unchecked for weeks at a time. Similarly follow-up inspections to signing, lighting and guarding failures should be chargeable.
7.11 Several respondents also raised issues relating to contractors employed by utilities companies to undertake and manage their works. The main issues were:
- Utility companies continually change contractors to maintain lower costs. It often falls to the roads authorities to supervise these contractors on site with a number of utility companies paying no attention to quality at the time of the works. All utility companies must be required to carry out some quality monitoring of their own contractors on site and record the results of these inspections on the SRWR.
- Several of the national utility companies now employ external contractors to manage and undertake road works on their behalf. This type of contract management setup can lead to utilities abdicating their duties under road works legislation resulting in works noticing problems, poor site supervision and inadequate site traffic management.
7.12 Some respondents used question 31 to provide further feedback regarding the Scottish Road Works Register (SRWR). This included the following observations:
- The SRWR is not currently working to its full potential as a tool to allow bus and coach operators to monitor road works that may affect their services, and minimise disruption encountered by passengers. The first step toward improving the Register is to place a statutory responsibility on all those tasked with populating the SRWR with the most up-to-date and accurate information available, to update it in a timely manner and to do their utmost to work to the dates in place.
- Additional fields may be required in the system to cover all traffic management such as convoy working:
"When works are not registered at the time of completion, it should be the statutory undertaker's duty to prove the date of the reinstatement. A photograph, taken at the time of the reinstatement, could be deemed sufficient. It would have to be date stamped and show a near-by landmark. If evidence of the date is not available, the reinstatement date, for guarantee purposes, should be the date it is entered into the SRWR." (West Lothian Council)
7.13 Some comments were also made to reinforce the importance of accurate reporting times, especially in the case of urgent and emergency works:
- In situations where utility companies require to undertake urgent works, these are typically notified for a period of one week. Often the repairs are carried out within two to three days and there is then usually a period of a few days where no works are undertaken before the reinstatement is completed. The period of time where no works are being carried out between completion of the repair and completion of the reinstatement should be addressed. 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, which cannot be arranged immediately for various reasons (e.g. lack of resources or complex traffic management requirements). This would allow for at least some advance notification of works and assist with co-ordination.
- Further control is required over the works periods. Expected end dates need to be tightened up and failures to meet these dates (without agreed extensions) should be offences dischargeable by FPN:
"Further control is required over the works periods. Notification of expected end dates need to be tightened up and failures to meet these dates (without agreed extensions) should be an offence subject to a FPN. There should also be a specific penalty for failing to repair defective work within a reasonable time in addition to the current system where the reinstatement is repaired by the roads authority on a rechargeable basis." (Stirling Council)
- Actual starts, late or no extensions (where the notice expires before being closed), registration information and not entering reinstatement details should all be FPNs. This would drive the provision of this information by providing an incentive to do so.
7.14 One respondent representing a rural roads authority also requested flexibility in some of the noticing of major works, to accommodate the fact that, in rural areas, even some relatively minor works can expand and take over two weeks. In such cases, the need to follow the same noticing procedures as, say, Glasgow and Edinburgh seems unnecessary.
7.15 One respondent requested including details of works duration on Information Boards, alongside the existing requirement to name the organisation carrying out the work and a telephone number for emergency contact. Another respondent suggested erection of signs informing the public of the reasons for delays and a requirement for constant updates to the site notice board showing the reasons why any site is not currently being worked on, as well as the estimated start and end dates.
7.16 A number of comments shared the theme of fees/costs and fines, although these all related to different technical areas, as follows:
- A review of the Prescribed Fees regulations so that there is parity in the application of the fees in terms of overall usage of the SRWR, not just against the number of notices served.
- Changing the existing situation wherein roads authorities are responsible for the majority of the diversionary costs for replacing utility apparatus when the structure is replaced.
- Changing the need for roads authorities to pay for the utility companies' detailed diversion scheme costs and estimates, as the balance of costs is completely in favour of the utilities.
- A specific penalty for failing to repair defective work within a reasonable time in addition to the current system where the reinstatement is repaired by the roads authority on a rechargeable basis.
- As the requirement to enter site dimensions is not supported in legislation (best practice only) any scheme where the roads authority is compensated on a m2 basis is subject to the provision of that information by the utility. There is no method for a roads authority to provide that information on behalf of the utility, therefore the information must be provided, accurately, by the utility. As there is no legal requirement to do so, nor any penalty for not doing so, it could be considered that there is a financial benefit to not providing the information, even if dealt with as a Commissioner penalty. Therefore, providing registration information must be backed in legislation, and must have a suitable penalty for non-provision.
7.17 Several respondents provided brief comments regarding joints/stepped joints:
- Two respondents (both roads authorities) indicated that band sealing and step all joints would improve the longevity of utility reinstatements.
- Another roads authority suggested that stepped joints for all reinstatements should be mandatory. This would help to seal the underlying areas to water ingress which has a detrimental effect on the road, it was felt.
- One respondent (from group one) indicated that they would like to see a review of the specification for vertical joints and sealing of joints.
- Two respondents (also from group one) indicated that they would like stepped joints for all reinstatements to be mandatory.
- One respondent asked that any report published that relates to road works should stress the importance of sealing the joints to prevent the ingress of water into the construction layers. Stepped joints should be required as standard and not just on type one and two roads.
7.18 One respondent made a specific appeal for full panel reinstatements to preserve the road structure and one respondent expressed that the current reinstatement standards in the SROR do not encourage effective reinstatements and that interface cracking tolerances within SROR are not fit for purpose. The same respondent also supported that stepped joints should be required as standard.
7.19 Perhaps reflecting their organisational origins, some respondents used question 31 to present messages around green travel and the role that road works disruption may play in discouraging modal shift to public transport. Suggestions for improvements included:
- Not all passengers can easily transfer their boarding/alighting point for a variety of reasons. Diversionary routes must be realistic in terms of bus operation but should also have a specific requirement to meet the needs of passengers, especially those passengers who have special requirements.
- Improvements to pedestrian/cyclist facilities/routes during the works e.g. clear routes, suitable widths, provision for disabled users and clear routes for cyclists.
- Ensuring safety of all users, particularly vulnerable road users such as those travelling by bicycle or on foot, is paramount. As such, the safety for vulnerable road users must be considered throughout the process, from notification through the works and on to inspection of the reinstatement and throughout the guarantee period. This includes appropriate finishing of road works that may not have an impact on motor vehicle users, but have a huge impact on those travelling by bike. For example, resurfacing around access hatches that, when reinstated, result in the cover not being flush with the carriageway creates a dangerous hazard for those on a bicycle.
- Specific consideration of notification for key cycling and walking routes, taking cognisance of how best to relay information to those cycling and walking. This may differ from current methods of notification. Any works taking place on a designated cycle network (e.g. the NCN or designated local authority network) or Core Path should consider a well-signed diversionary route that is safe and as direct as possible for those on bicycle or foot:
"It is important that cycling routes (particularly cycle paths and segregated infrastructure) due to undergo works are treated in the same fashion as on-carriageway road works, complete with a process ensuring proper notification, diversion and reinstatement in place and subject to the same requirements for contributions, inspections, guarantees, charges, etc." (Cycling Scotland)
"National and local government, alongside bus and coach operators, are investing heavily in encouraging modal shift and making the bus a reliable alternative to the car. This work should not be undermined by a lax approach to regulating road works. As with many other policy areas, it would seem that communication and co-operation is key to the process and should occur at the outset of planned road works. Stakeholders such as bus companies should be informed and be able to feed back their views on the potential impacts of planned works. It should not be regarded as acceptable for utility companies and roads authorities to operate within a silo. Doing so will only increase congestion and emissions levels and turn people away from public transport use." (CPT)
7.20 SPT put forward several comments around ensuring that appropriate consideration is always given to the type of road and type of users likely to be affected by road works along any one specific route e.g. Is it a major bus route or freight route? What is the volume of buses/patronage and freight demand? Are there viable alternative routes? Is it an appropriate time of year for works? Is night-working more/most appropriate?:
"The primary consideration for SPT is disruption to public transport and impacts on the wider economy, including freight, and community - on people commuting, attending health appointments, accessing education, retail, leisure and recreation. The impact is not necessarily restricted to the particular road affected but is often felt more widely." (SPT)
7.21 Only four respondents put forward specific proposals for trials and pilots of different initiatives, or made comments about trials and innovations at question 31, as follows (NB: more comments in this regard were offered in response to question 32):
- Pilot projects whereby bus operators receive free access to the SRWR in exchange for providing feedback to the areas where the SRWR needs to be updated or altered in order to make it a useful tool for minimising disruption to public transport;
- Implementation of long term strategies for material sourcing of high amenity area specialist surfaces (e.g. laid as part of landscaping projects in inner cities). Supplies are often needed in small quantities with long lead times. A holding stock held in regional areas for all to procure may drive down lead times and improve availability; and
- Exploration and trialling of innovative materials and working methods should be supported by the road works community. There should be the opportunity to record trials on the SRWR, promoting such techniques nationally and across the road works community:
"New innovations are always being introduced and are to be welcomed. The City of Edinburgh Council believe that trialling any new method is essential, to determine performance, durability and the long term effect the new methods have on the roads and pavements. It is suggested that prior to any new method or innovation being adopted for use by an organisation, a specification should be written and issued for agreement, to RAUC(S), by the organisation introducing a new method of working. This means that, when organisations try to get agreements from individual roads authorities the specification should be capable of use by others." (City of Edinburgh Council)
7.22 Other comments were perhaps best classified as being generally supportive comments with regards to the future co-ordination of roads works, e.g. the drive for further co-ordination and collaboration involving all road works organisations should continue with the shared aim of safely and effectively reducing road occupation:
"NJUG's firm view is that the greatest benefits in terms of driving up standards and reducing disruption can be achieved by road works authorities and utilities working together to co-ordinate works and thereby reduce the number of overall days occupation, as well as continuing the very positive collaborative approach under RAUC (Scotland), working with the Commissioner, to drive up standards." (NJUG)
7.23 Two respondents (both utility companies) stated again that they welcomed the application of existing legislation and regulations to roads authorities to bring parity of treatment and further enhance the collaborative approach of RAUC (Scotland) and the same two respondents stated that the HAUC (UK) and RAUC (Scotland) codes of practice for road and street works were excellent vehicles for enhancing road works in Scotland.
7.24 Finally, three respondents (all roads authorities) commented that they had found the current consultation very comprehensive and therefore had no further issues to note.
Q.32. Please identify any potential innovations which you think could contribute towards improving the way in which works in roads are managed and undertaken.
7.25 Just over half of all respondents answered this question, however, not all of those provided suggestions for potential innovations, as asked. Four respondents provided 'other' comments which may have been better given at question 31. These included:
- The need for utility companies to review time spent supervising reinstatements (group one respondent);
- Stepped joints for all reinstatements should be mandatory (group one respondent); and
- The introduction of FPNs for specific instances of non-compliance with actual starts, late or no extensions and registration information, as required. Specific penalties for failing to repair defective works within a reasonable time was also suggested (mentioned by two group one respondents).
7.26 Of the 24 respondents who provided suggestions for potential innovations, the ideas were quite diverse and could not be readily themed. Several respondents also offered more than one idea. The following list shows all ideas that were offered, and the group from which the respondents came:
- Incentives provided for utility companies to trench share (group one);
- Better use of mobile IT kits would be useful when considering the inspection and registration process. A multi-platform national system (i.e. windows, android, linux, mac) or secure App for inspections that would fully integrate with the Register would provide real time information to all users (group one);
- Trenchless technologies; micro tooling; vacuum excavations etc. These techniques are welcomed and should be used on a more widespread basis (group one);
- Methods of permanently identifying the responsible utility for reinstatements on site (group one);
- Acceptance by utilities of readily available instruments to non-destructively measure reinstatement thickness (group one);
- The durability of joints in reinstatements is a recurring problem and the use of stepped joints in pavement layers should be considered. Alternatively the use of a chamfered joint rather than the current single vertical joint would produce a tighter joint that was easier to paint with emulsion prior to surfacing (group one);
- One system that records road works instead of Traffic Scotland and Symology operating different systems. The trunk road operators have to update and operate both these systems which is double work for the same result and so find a way to link both systems where only one input of road works is required would be beneficial (group one);
- Reversed routes in morning and evening peaks if appropriate (group three);
- Properly and interactively staffed sites to deal with traffic implications (group three);
- Role of police to supervise traffic management (group three);
- Greater use of predictive modelling to permit "what-if?" scenarios (group three);
- Potential roll out of the 'keyhole surgery' road works technique being pioneered by Scotland Gas Networks (SGN) in Glasgow (group three);
- Greater use of current technology to give accurate grid references of reinstatements and use this as part of input to Vault (group one);
- Move towards Construction Consents being submitted electronically and for the information therein to be uploaded directly to Vault (group one);
- For urban/high footfall locations, an easy way of recording of specialised surface course and depths would be of value for costing and supply of reinstatement materials in advance of site works (group one);
- Recording layer depths on the SRWR on non-trunk roads, to assist in reducing disagreements over reinstatements (group one); and
- For all drawings associated with major works to be attached to the notice (group one).
7.27 One respondent suggested that changes to primary legislation were required to move towards utilities taking more responsibility for the consequences of their work and said that this could be the most significant and innovative contribution towards the way in which works in roads are managed and undertaken (similar to sentiments expressed at question 31):
"The current joint roads authority/undertaker working arrangements, whereby the utility companies can virtually veto any significant changes, does not work. There is an over reliance on an abundance of Advice Notes and Codes of Practice, due primarily to a lack of clear and concise primary or secondary legislation." (Stirling Council)
7.28 Some respondents proposed more general suggested improvements, rather than specific innovations, these being:
- Agreement on methods to measure the adequacy of trench backfill. Poor backfill rather than poor surface course reinstatement is responsible for the majority of cases of settlement and long term damage (group one); and
- Potential to minimise the future disruption from utility works when planning new developments, by addressing this under planning or road construction consent legislation (mentioned by two respondents, both from group one).
7.29 Cycling Scotland also put forward a proposal for a traffic management pilot, as follows:
"For longer term and larger, programmed work e.g., large scale utility works or road resurfacing/reinstatement, there is an opportunity to take advantage of an alteration of traffic flows to test reallocation of road space and alternative traffic management techniques. For example, if a lane is taken out by utility works, the route could be designated for cycling and walking only, with a diversion made for vehicular traffic. This could allow for testing of potential reallocation of road space and traffic management for the short term - similar to a 'pilot' - and would assist in assessing any impacts on general traffic flows and accessibility across the wider area." (Cycling Scotland)
7.30 Two respondents also mentioned innovative practices/techniques that they were already aware of being used beyond the UK. The first related to a precast concrete manhole surround, 150mm in width, to reduce failures in ironwork in the carriageway. These are common in the US, it was suggested, where after excavation and backfill, the asphalt should be planed out 300mm on either side of the trench, and reinstated with full depth asphalt, compacted in layers. When excavations are made within 1200mm of other excavations or kerbs, the full width of asphalt should be planed and reinstated.
7.31 The second non-UK example of innovation related to identification of reinstatements:
"In France, reinstatements have a date/utility code "stamped" into the surface. The letters are about 50mm high and appear to have been imprinted using some sort of "branding iron" (indent is about 5mm). It is therefore easy to identify at a glance when the reinstatement was undertaken and by whom." (Dumfries and Galloway Council)
7.32 Three respondents (all from group one) also commented that they found the proposals under Section 1 of the consultation to be very innovative "continuing the approach of the Scottish roads and utilities community in leading the way for others to follow." This supported many of the additional comments provided to question 31 above:
"We consider the proposals under Section 1 of this consultation to be innovative and appropriate. Income from these charges will support the efforts of councils and the Scottish Government and help improve condition of the Road Network." (Argyll and Bute Council)
7.33 Several of the utility companies highlighted that NJUG encourages its members to demonstrate new innovations within the industry through its Annual NJUG Awards. The Awards attract submissions across six categories and entries are judged by an expert independent panel. All of the award winning case studies can be found on the NJUG website as examples of the road works sector delivering innovative practice in the ways road works are managed and undertaken.
7.34 NJUG also promotes innovation from suppliers who provide goods, services, materials or equipment that support one or more of the NJUG Vision for Street Works, by the creation of NJUG Affiliates. Affiliates can present innovations at Regional NJUG Street Works Fora held around Great Britain, and at NJUG Good Practice Workshops.
7.35 A general theme across responses was the need for constant effective communication between members of the road works community, and one roads authority provided an example of how regular communication was aiding their local practice:
"In Ayrshire the three Councils meet together with Scottish Water every three months outwith the cycle of local RAUC meetings to discuss road works issues. This meeting is beneficial to both the roads authorities and Scottish Water. Holding similar meetings with the other major utility companies would be beneficial to managing road works in South Ayrshire." (South Ayrshire Council)
7.36 One final respondent (from group one) expressed that they would just welcome the implementation of responses that had been offered as part of the consultation and one respondent (from group two) again highlighted the importance of collaborative working for the future success of roads works management and operation and for optimal service delivery:
"Vodafone believes that collaboration between the undertakers and roads authorities is the key to management of the network. Close communication between undertakers and authorities, their acceptance of each other's needs to maintain networks and give service, is of the utmost of importance to keep efficient traffic movement on the roads and keeps commerce thriving. Where appropriate, working together in partnership where schemes conflict, sends a message to the wider public that the road community is not just an industry on its own, but provides a service to all." (Vodafone UK)
Q.33. Please outline the potential impact of any additional costs.
7.37 Only 31 out of the 50 respondents (62%) answered this question. Of those who did not, nine were roads authorities, five were utility companies and five were 'other organisations'.
1. The majority of respondents found it difficult to accurately quantify or make comment on the likely costs associated with proposals outlined in the consultation. This was due to the breadth of issues covered and the limited timeframe in which to undertake a detailed costs analysis, as well as due to ambiguity around which proposal may be taken forward.
2. The contribution to costs of making good long term damage to roads by utility companies was unanimously welcomed by roads authorities as a positive economic move for the public purse.
3. The view on contribution costs from utility companies was that it would negatively impact on services provided to customers and have a negative impact on local economic growth.
7.38 The single biggest additional cost mentioned by roads authorities was the need for an increased staff resource, in particular administrative support, if all of the proposed measures in the consultation were introduced. Estimates of the extent of what would be required ranged quite considerably from a staffing increase of 100% of three full time posts to more conservative estimates i.e. 'modest administrative costs' for database management. In essence, more funding would be needed, it was suggested, by roads authorities for additional staff to manage and monitor any additional statutory duties resulting from the consultation, as well as, potentially, additional IT equipment obtained to provide digital information to the SRWR, both handheld and desktop. The absence of additional funding, and the need for redeployment of staff/budgets was described as having negative impacts in terms of service delivery. At a minimum, it was suggested, any proposals implemented need to be cost neutral for roads authorities since the current climate of reducing budgets means that roads authorities would have difficulties in absorbing any additional costs resulting from legislative changes.
7.39 There was a large degree of commonality in responses from roads authorities that most costs could be absorbed by practices and procedures already in place, with the main impact being the increased volume of work for staff. There was consensus that roads authorities budgets are already stretched with no option to pass on costs to customers (unlike utility companies) and thus the public purse would be required to finance any notable changes.
7.40 Both roads authorities and utility companies mentioned the transfer of some of the cost of the making good long term damage to roads arising from utility excavations (covered in Section 1 of the consultation).
7.41 A unanimous view was put forward by roads authority respondents that this transfer of contribution costs should give an economic benefit to society as a whole as it would drive the innovations necessary to reduce the need for future excavations. If the contributions for utility companies were introduced, this would also potentially free up some of this stream of funding to make better use of staff time and technology within roads authorities. This was welcomed by all roads authorities respondents as a means of reducing the financial burden on roads authorities.
7.42 The view from utility companies on contribution costs was that any introduction of a contribution towards long-term damage would not only increase the unit cost of works dramatically, but would reduce the volume of asset investment works utilities companies would be able to undertake within their regulatory settlements, the cost of implementing Scottish Government initiatives such as high-speed broadband, and the cost of new connections for businesses and domestic customers. This will have a significant negative impact on economic growth, jobs and the Scottish economy, it was suggested. Despite perceptions among some authorities that these costs could be passed on to consumers, views were expressed by utilities that increased operating costs cannot be recovered in a sector with low margins and extended payment periods.
7.43 For utility companies, the main theme in responses was that it was not possible to quantify or accurately estimate the likely impact on costs of the proposals outlined in the short term, and that detailed cost analysis was required before considering taking forward the various proposals discussed (as well as potentially exploring in more detail the research that had informed some of the proposals):
"NJUG is unable to accurately quantify the costs of many of the proposals included in this consultation, as the costs would vary widely depending on the scope and scale of the eventual proposals and the way in which they are implemented." (NJUG)
"It is not possible to quantify the true cost of the additional costs at this juncture as there is insufficient data to allow for meaningful analysis to be undertaken." (Energy Networks Association)
7.44 One utility company estimated that the proposals, including contributions to long term damage, could total several million pounds per annum, and another provided an estimate in the range of £1m-£6m, depending on the percentage applied.
7.45 In essence, the scope and breadth of proposals covered in the consultation mean that it was not possible for utility companies to cost accurately within the timeframe allowed by the consultation, but this was something that was urged before any proposals were introduced:
"Before introducing any further measures NJUG urges the Scottish Government to undertake a robust cost-benefit analysis of any areas they wish to consider further, including with input from utilities and roads authorities, as well as working with the Scottish Road Works Commissioner and RAUC (Scotland) in continuing the already in place programme of improvement." (NJUG)
"We would urge the government to undertake a robust cost benefit analysis and empirical research is carried out before imposing any of the proposals." (Energy Networks Association)
"Vodafone believes there are wide options for Transport Scotland to implement schemes and regulations and therefore additional costs are unknown and variable. We urge the Scottish Government to consider the present legislation gives enough power and duties to manage Road Works effectively without the burden of added costs which ultimately, consumers will pay for." (Vodafone UK)
7.46 Scottish Water explained that they were undertaking to carry out a detailed cost impact on relevant parts of the consultation that they would be happy to share on completion.
7.47 The other main areas of the consultation that were specifically cited as potentially requiring additional resource from both roads authorities and utility companies were:
- Mandatory use of Vault to record road authority apparatus such as drains and street lighting cables (mentioned by one respondent).
- The introduction of permit schemes (mentioned by four respondents). Costs may vary by authority and this is difficult to budget for. These carry a financial and operational burden in terms of execution and management. Permits schemes that apply to all works and all roads result in a far greater increase in utility and authority costs than those that focus on just the busiest roads. Equally, those permit schemes with onerous conditions have increased costs and reduced productivity/efficiently, much more than those schemes which have fewer and less onerous conditions.
- The introduction of lane rental schemes (mentioned by four respondents) which are also variable and difficult to resource in operational management terms. The approach in which any lane rental scheme is developed will greatly vary the costs to all works promoters. A scheme which incentivises a wholesale move towards out of hours working will have higher costs than a scheme which also incorporates variations in seasons/times of year. For out of hours working utilities are typically seeing a 25% uplift in labour costs, which they would have to pay in order to avoid the lane rental charge if a lane rental scheme is so designed.
- Works promoters have seen the number of hours available for work each day reduced dramatically e.g. to avoid a lane rental charge in London a works promoter must not work before 8p.m. in the evening and yet some Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are preventing works after 11p.m., which leaves only 3 hours to do works. This increases the duration of works exponentially.
7.48 One utility company commented on the potential increase in FPNs, but was the only respondent to do so:
"Openreach believes that the introduction of NRSWA Section 133 will place additional financial and administration burden on both utilities and authorities. This is an unnecessary burden when existing legislation under NRSWA Section 125 should be used by the authorities. We are also of the opinion that any increase in FPN offences will place additional financial implications for authorities and utilities alike, increasing the hearings and undermining the pragmatic approach that has been a success in Scotland for many years." (BT Openreach)
7.49 One utility company also pointed out that there would be hidden costs to administer and manage the new proposals and suggested that experience across England has shown that disputes and challenges are inevitable and generate additional unanticipated work for both parties.
Summary of 'Other Issues'
7.50 A large number of disparate comments were made in response to the final three consultation questions, with considerable feedback from both roads authorities and utility companies. Most of the closing comments made by respondents reflected the views already set out earlier in the consultation around the consequences of sharing costs for making good roads, and sharing responsibilities for ensuring that works are closed timeously and in good order. The need for parity between the two groups in terms of accountability was again stressed.
7.51 Several ideas for innovations were put forward and comments reflect a general commitment to learn from best practice wherever possible.
7.52 It was not possible within the scope of the current consultation for respondents to provide accurate cost implication feedback from the proposals, but there was consensus that careful planning would be required, including detailed cost analysis, before any of the proposals were implemented.