Overrunning roadwork charges topple £200,000 in two years
PUBLISHED: 07:32 04 February 2020
More than £200,000 has been paid to Suffolk County Council in charges due to overrunning roadworks – with one major company fielding costs of nearly £60,000.
Figures obtained through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that during the 2017-18 and 2018-19 financial years, the county council received £210,025 in fees through laws set out under section 74 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991.
It requires companies behind overrunning roadworks to pay a civil charge in compensation for "society costs".
During the two-year period, the council recorded 487 incidents where companies were penalised due to work extensions, with costs ranging from £100 to £17,750.
In the 2017-18 financial year, BT Openreach paid £59,075 to the council - nearly 50% of the yearly total.
Another company which faced significant costs under the laws was Anglian Water, which was made to pay £39,100.
In the following financial year, the water company was again one of the largest payees, moving over £25,500 to the council.
Gas company Cadent also received a large charge in 2018-19, paying £28,725.
Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member responsible for highways, transport and rural affairs, said: "We receive thousands of applications from utility companies and highways to carry out roadworks every year.
"Roadworks by their nature can be disruptive - so it is very important that any works taking place on our roads are carried out as quickly as possible and within the agreed time frame.
"To enable us to manage this, we have the ability to charge companies who have stayed on site longer than agreed - this aids us in discouraging overrun and as a result enables us to efficiently manage our road space.
"Money received can be used in a variety of ways, such as covering the cost of operating a scheme, developing policies to improve services or to support civic, or commemorative events."
The civil charges aim to compensate any disruption caused to local road networks and residents further to what is already planned.
The fees are dependent on the number of days overrun, the type of work and the traffic sensitivity of the street.
What to the companies say?
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A spokesperson for Openreach said: "A lot of our work is unpredictable.
"It's manual engineering, problem solving and coming across the unexpected that makes it a daily challenge. But we're also experts in our field, so we have a huge amount of expertise that helps us overcome some really difficult problems.
"Our focus is on providing the best possible service to our customers ultimately. Of course, we never want to be in a position where we are fined, as this means some of our work has been problematic."
An Anglian Water spokesperson said: "We do sympathise with customers inconvenienced by the inevitable disruption our work involves.
"Where we can plan in advance or minimise disruption using innovative 'keyhole surgery' techniques, we will.
"We always aim to piggy-back on other ongoing jobs and work closely with the council's Highways team so that they can coordinate this.
"Whenever we're doing work, the safety of the public and our staff is our top priority, and our teams will continue to work hard to keep disruption to a minimum."
A Cadent spokesperson said: "We do all we can to deliver our essential work to keep people connected to safe and reliable gas supplies with as little disruption as possible.
"We use innovative minimal dig technology where we can, plan our work carefully alongside the local authorities and also where possible carry out our work at the same time as other utilities, all to minimise disruption and ensure work is completed as promptly as possible and scheduled to fit into local life as much as possible."
UK Power Networks
A UK Power Networks spokesperson said: "While we take fines extremely seriously, it is important to put them in the context of approximately 1,300 excavations we carry out in Suffolk every year to keep the power on for homes and businesses in the county."