Street works reforms planned as sector faces surging demand

Ministers have proposed further reforms to the regime for street works and road works following the introduction of Street Manager and in anticipation of a surge of street works linked to the roll-out of full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband.

A consultation paper published by the Department for Transport (DfT) notes that the ‘transformational’ Street Manager digital service, introduced last July, is being used by every utility company and highway authority, and their contractors, in England to plan and manage road works.

In addition, the first update for 10 years to the Specification for the Reinstatement of Openings in the Highway (SROH version 4) came into force as statutory guidance on 10 May.

The DfT also noted that almost every highway authority now operates a permit scheme, with every authority expected to have one by the summer, while some councils are introducing lane rental schemes.

It said the proposed additional reforms came to light during the development and introduction of Street Manager and the update to the Coordination Code of Practice. The regulation changes aim to support the Government’s manifesto commitment to roll out full fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business in the UK by 2025.

The consultation document, which relates to England, notes that works by telecoms companies account for a third of all works, but that ‘this number is estimated to triple over the next few years’.

Transport minister Baroness Vere said: ‘This consultation is looking at additional improvements that can be made, to make greater use of Street Manager, to provide more detailed information on live and planned works to the general public, to add flexibility to permit schemes to help the roll-out of key infrastructure projects, and to make some important changes to street works inspections.’

The proposed changes are:

  • introducing a new type of flexi permit that would cover a number of standard and minor works in a certain area for a period of time;
  • allowing phases within a permit so that up to date information on traffic management can be sent to Street Manager and then published;
  • including notifications about Section 58 and Section 58A/Schedule 3A road restrictions in Street Manager;
  • requiring works start and stop notices to be sent within two hours at weekends; and requiring highway authorities to submit start and stop notices for their works so that up-to-date information can be provided via Street Manager to road users.

There are also three changes relating to street works inspections:

  • amending the way an inspection unit is calculated;
  • using performance to calculate the number of sample inspections carried out each year so that poor performers are inspected more frequently;
  • consolidation of the fee that needs to be paid for re-inspections of reinstatements that have failed a previous inspection.

The DfT said the new SROH guidance supports the introduction of new materials to aid compliance with air voids (compaction) requirements; rationalises the process for introducing innovation; introduces a new specification for micro trenching; and permits the use of large diameter coring.

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