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Street Works UK Recommends Changes to Help Build Full Fibre

Friday, Jan 13th, 2023 (12:30 pm) - Score 2,896

Street Works UK (SWUK), which is a Trade Association that represents utilities and their contractors on street works issues, has published a new report that helps to highlight some of the barriers that civil engineers are facing as they attempt to upgrade the nation’s water, sewage, gas, electricity and broadband ISP infrastructure.

The report – ‘Digging Down to Level Up‘ (PDF) – is fairly generalised, but it does repeatedly touch on digital infrastructure delivery and highlights the “urgent need for upgrades to deliver nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 5G mobile coverage.”

At present, the Government’s Project Gigabit programme aims to extend broadband networks capable of delivering 1000Mbps (1Gbps) download speeds to “at least” 85% of UK premises by the end of 2025 and then “nationwide” coverage (c.99%) by around 2030 (here). This is in addition to various 4G and 5G mobile upgrades, such as via the £1bn Shared Rural Network agreement, which aims to push geographic 4G cover to 95% from any one operator by the end of 2025 (here).

However, the new report warns that such deployments are currently suffering from “policy and regulatory pitfalls,” which it says “cause more delay, confusion, conflict and frustration between utilities.” The Government has already been forced to pull back from its initial target of rolling out full fibre broadband to all by 2025, and SWUK “fear this will get worse for both broadband and EV charging as ambitions meet realities.”

Extract from the Diggin Down to Level Up Report:

“Furthermore, meeting the requirements for upgrading the UK’s infrastructure upgrades requires significant private investment. By slowing down the delivery of projects, the time frame for returns on investment is also delayed, which could impact investor confidence and the availability of capital to deliver vital works.

Other areas of regulation are also moving in the wrong direction, leading to slower and more costly delivery of infrastructure projects. Expanded rules governing the standards expected when it comes to filling in holes once street works have been completed — SROH (Specification of the Reinstatement of Openings in Highways) — costs large sums for utilities each year, pushing up the cost of the UK’s infrastructure revolution.

In Scotland, guarantee periods for reinstatement – the period of time during which utility companies delivering street works are responsible for sections of the sections of road they have repaired – are expected to increase. This is already impacting the delivery of street works, adding new costs and slowing down much needed connectivity.”

In fairness, if some of those strict quality standards for reinstatement didn’t exist or were watered down, then public support for some of the much-needed infrastructure upgrades may wane. But thankfully, most of the report’s key recommendations are focused on other areas and seek to avoid growing the current burden, rather than weakening it.


1. Street Manager:

The technical capability of Street Manager remains limited, and Street Works UK strongly believes all data in Street Manager must be validated and checked for accuracy as a priority. Street Manager has the potential to provide vital insights to utilities and highway authorities. However, further steps must be taken to ensure the platform is capable of effectively capturing the data needed to underpin greater collaboration in the sector.

2. Permit schemes and Lane Rental:

We must now prioritise greater standardisation of permit schemes and lane rental schemes [they’ve covered this before] to ensure that utilities and local authorities can work together more effectively to deliver the Government’s infrastructure ambitions whilst reducing congestion and avoiding escalating costs for consumers. Street Works UK is strongly committed to the principle of permit and lane rental schemes, to remove and reduce traffic congestion. However, the implementation of schemes has varied significantly across different local authorities, creating barriers to effective collaboration in the sector.

3. Flexi permits:

Trials of this approach must be rapidly expanded and followed up with a reconsideration to introduce a national scheme as quickly as possible. The Government’s previous decision not to implement a flexi-permit scheme is disappointing and should be urgently reconsidered. Flexi permits are a simple solution that allows much greater efficiency of large-scale infrastructure rollout with ample safeguards that can be built in to maintain quality and safety of works.

4. SROH: Guarantee periods for SROH should not be extended.

Extending these periods would create significant cost and administrative burdens for utilities, hampering their ability to deliver works at the scale and pace required to meet the UK’s infrastructure needs.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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3 Responses
  1. Avatar photo CJ says:

    Council permit schemes that cover non-traffic sensitive residential streets have nothing to do with reducing traffic congestion and everything to do with increasing council revenue. Those councils are not going to surrender the revenue they get from issuing and re-issuing pointless permits unless central government forces them to stop.

    1. Avatar photo A_Builder says:


      Particularly charging eye watering amounts to suspend parking bays……

  2. Avatar photo A_Builder says:

    “In Scotland, guarantee periods for reinstatement – the period of time during which utility companies delivering street works are responsible for sections of the sections of road they have repaired – are expected to increase. This is already impacting the delivery of street works, adding new costs and slowing down much needed connectivity.”

    Well if botched reinstatement wasn’t such an issue this would not be raised.

    Some reinstatement is done to excellent standards with lean concrete capping and then asphalt.

    Some reinstatement is overdone with the whole of the hole filled with lean mix foamed concrete. Whilst this approach ensures that the repair area doesn’t budge it does make future opening up very, very hard.

    And then you get the cowboy jobs where the soil goes back in with maybe a Wacker over it and then a thin coat of tarmac……

    The real issue is that you don’t know how good the reinstatement is until you get some foul weather with water getting under the dressing. And that may not happen for long months of years.

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