Utility firms will be ordered to dig up pavements instead of roads to stop plague of potholes
- Transport secretary said fewer holes appear in roads that have not been regularly dug up
- Comes as it was revealed motorway potholes are taking more than a month to fill
- Disability campaigners and parents’ groups are likely to oppose the move
Utility firms will be told to dig up pavements instead of roads to stop the plague of potholes.
Companies will be ordered to put new pipes and cables under pavements or grass verges to cut congestion from roadworks, reports the Times.
Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, said that fewer holes appear in roads that have not been regularly dug up for utility work.
The news comes as it was revealed last week that motorway potholes are taking more than a month to fill in.
Utility firms will be told to dig up pavements instead of roads to stop the plague of potholes (file photo)
Highway England’s policy is to fill in the most dangerous holes within 24 hours after being alerted by members of the public or spotted by staff.
Less serious potholes have to be sorted out within 28 days, giving it much more leeway than councils, some of which pledge to fill in the worst potholes within hours.
Mr Grayling told the Times: ‘You get far fewer holes appearing in intact roads than roads that have been regularly dug up.
‘So we are going to create a default that you have to look first at laying the utilities under the pavements rather than under the roads.’
Disability campaigners and parents’ groups are likely to oppose the decision, which will be set out in new guidance by the Department of Transport, over accessibility issues.
Firms will only be allowed to dig up roads only after proving they had considered digging up pavements or grass verges first.
Up to 2.5million roadworks take place on England’s roads each year, with Britain’s roads ranked 27th in the world for quality.
Freezing temperatures at the end of February have meant that Britain’s roads are in their worst state for years, with repairs costing £9.3billion are needed.
Mr Grayling has also said that his department will be opening a competition to develop harder-wearing road material to prevent new surfaces collapsing.
He added: ‘The solution cannot simply be to come up with more and more money and to fill potholes that simply collapse a year or two later.’
Chris Grayling, the transport secretary, said that fewer holes appear in roads that have not been regularly dug up for utility work (file photo)
Stephen Joseph, chief executive of the Campaign for Better Transport, has criticised then move, saying that pavements are ‘already in a terrible state’ because of utilities underneath them.
He said: ‘The result is that the NHS spends an awful lot of money treating people who’ve had trips, slips and falls on uneven and badly maintained pavements.
‘Unless Chris Grayling is prepared to make much more money available for pavements, he will simply make an already big problem a whole lot worse.
‘You can’t just export the problem from roads to pavements without expecting major consequences.’
Cash-strapped town halls are also using legal loopholes to get out of compensating drivers whose cars are damaged by potholes.
Councils are dismissing drivers’ claims by saying the road was scheduled to be repaired.
The tactic is letting them off the hook for damages, even if they had known about the pothole for months but not fixed it.
Figures released following a Freedom of Information request reveal Kent County Council has used the tactic to dismiss more than a third of claims in two years.
Councils are also wriggling out of paying compensation by saying they did not know about the pothole which caused the damage.
The amount paid out by councils for pothole-related damage has slumped by almost 80 per cent in less than a decade. Just £7.3million was paid out last year – down from £35.2million in 2009. Town halls spend far more (£21million) processing the claims.
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