By Daniel Hunter
A new taskforce comprising councils, utility companies and business representatives has been set up to try and reduce the cost and disruption caused by roadworks.
It follows new research which found contractors poorly resurfacing trenches after digging up roads cost taxpayers almost half-a-billion pounds over the past two years — the equivalent of filling eight million potholes.
Last year 20 per cent of their works were not up to standard, meaning they had to be redone properly at the expense of local councils, causing more disruption and delays. This was up 3 per cent on 2011 and over the two years cost £435 million.
Another problem is the same stretch of road being dug up by different companies in quick succession, rather than carrying out their work in the same trench.
As well as frustrating motorists, unnecessary works can cost small businesses thousands of pounds a week in lost trade.
The new taskforce was established following a roadworks summit called by the Local Government Association (LGA) and attended by Transport Minister Norman Baker, Transport Select Committee Chair Louise Ellman, highways bosses, utility company executives and business leaders.
It will look at how new technology for recording roadworks can be used to better coordinate projects and monitor contractor performance, seek ways to improve communication between contractors and local businesses and help affected traders claim compensation where appropriate. The summit also resulted in a Government-funded project to improve the quality of roadworks.
"Most roadworks are essential and in many cases carried out efficiently and to a good standard. However, all too often, the rush to get on to the next job leaves in its wake patches of shoddy resurfacing. Not only is the taxpayer left to foot the bill to do the resurfacing properly, it means needless frustration for motorists and thousands of pounds in lost trade for small businesses," Cllr Peter Box, Chair of the LGA's Economy and Transport Board, said.
"Thousands of hours of roadworks disruption — closed roads, blocked pavements, temporary traffic lights, noisy drilling, restricted parking — are totally avoidable if only contractors did the job properly and companies better coordinated their works.
"For many years people have been complaining about these problems but very little has changed. Hopefully now that councils, utility companies and businesses have agreed to work together something will be done so the disruption and frustration of motorists and traders is kept to a minimum."
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