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Broadband Builders Take Note – Scotland Consults to Improve Road Works

Friday, July 21st, 2017 (8:06 am) - Score 599

The Scottish Government (SNP) has launched a new consultation on plans to “raise standards and improve the quality of road works” in Scotland, which should be of interest to any major broadband infrastructure builders in the country (e.g. Cityfibre, BT and Virgin Media) as it could affect their work.

Scotland already does a fairly good job on the planning and coordination of road works, not least because they’ve managed to setup a single register for all utility road works and they have a Scottish Road Works Commissioner (SRWC) – Angus Carmichael – to oversee the planning and coordination of road works, promote good practice, and ultimately consider enforcement action.

In keeping with that we’ve already seen Angus Carmichael hand down a fine of £35,000 to Cityfibre following a “number of serious failures to comply with road works legislation” (here) and the next operator on his hit list appears to be Virgin Media (here). However the Commissioner only has statutory powers to issue financial penalties up to a maximum £50,000, which isn’t enough to scare any major construction projects.

Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s Transport Minister, said:

“Road works are often where our busy lives intersect with our reliance on utility services. Our expectation is that where there is an unforeseen interruption to our water, electricity, gas or broadband services, the necessary repairs will be carried out quickly, and disruption to road users will be kept to a minimum.

Our road network is an important national asset and we need to be confident that we have the right measures in place to ensure that those digging up the road, reinstate the road properly and get it right first time.”

Various changes are proposed in the consultation, such as improvements in the availability of information, measures to support improvements in the quality of road work reinstatements, as well as improving enforcement and strengthening the existing powers available to the SRWC and to road authorities.

For example, the SRWC effectively performs a quasi-judicial role and does not have an inspection function but in the future it may receive additional inspection powers, which would be conducted as a complementary activity and not a substitute for inspections by the roads authority. The SRWC would also be able to hit companies with a bigger penalty of up to £100,000.

The scope of tedious Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) could also be widened so that they can apply generally to any offence under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA). Suffice to say that there are a lot of changes being proposed.

The consultation will remain open for responses until 12th October 2017.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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3 Responses
  1. Steve Jones says:

    It’s an interesting coincidence that this story appears at almost the same time Gigaclear announce they are stopping their roll-out in Worcestershire, blaming issues with the way that the Highway Agency want to deal with road works and planning and thereby causing cost over-runs. Of course this is a Scottish story, but the problem is surely generic. That is there is a conflict between the need to keep highways working and the needs of installing and maintaining other infrastructure (not just telecoms of course).

    I’m not sure whether there’s a magic bullet solution for this, but it does (as the BSG noted) act as a barrier to new deployments.

  2. Cecil Ward says:

    Perhaps we need services highways that are not on public roads. Perhaps in completely new locations? This is probably a stupid idea, maintenance and development access is one possible issue, availability of power is another, I just haven’t worked out all the things wrong with it yet.

  3. Cecil Ward says:

    It is so very important to get new comms developments going quickly and at low cost that the government should get involved to smooth things over.

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