1000 botched road repairs blamed on just 5 firms

The number of bungled roadworks in the Capital has soared. Picture: Lindsay Addison
The number of bungled roadworks in the Capital has soared. Picture: Lindsay Addison
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MORE than 1000 botched road repairs caused by just five utility firms are waiting to be fixed across the Capital.

The figure is 200 higher than it was at the end of the last financial year – which was previously an all-time record for poor performance.

City chiefs have now written to the companies dubbed the “infamous five” – Scottish Water, SGN, Scottish Power, BT Openreach and Virgin Media – blasting their “extremely disappointing” work and requesting a meeting to find a solution.

All five utility giants are nearing the end of a three-month final warning from the council to prove they can turn themselves around before they are referred to the Scottish Road Works Commissioner – a body that has the power to issue £50,000 fines.

But critics insisted the council needs to “get its act together” and do more to clamp down on the spiralling problem.

Hugh Bladon, co-founder of the Alliance of British Drivers, said: “We are driving over roads with trenches in them and so on, because they just don’t give a damn. The council don’t really care.

“They don’t seem to have any authority to go back to the utility companies and say, ‘Look, you’ve not done this job properly, so do it again’. It’s a pretty grim state of affairs.”

Over the first quarter of this financial year, council inspections found utility companies had failed to properly reinstate 1024 sites – almost three times as many as two years ago. Scottish Water, the worst offender, accounted for more than half of these.

None of the five main companies achieved the target 90 per cent pass rate in inspections carried out since April, with all receiving much lower results than in the last three years. From April to the end of June, 190 fixed penalty notices of between £80 and £120 were dished out to utility firms for failing to properly register their roadworks.

Council efforts to get the five main players to sign up to the new Edinburgh Road Works Ahead Agreement (ERWAA) – a document outlining ways they can improve their performance – have also failed. So far, CityFibre has been the only company to agree to it.

But the number of faulty apparatus left at the side of roadworks – such as cracked manhole covers and loose access hatches – has fallen over the last year, from more than 700 to 460.

ScottishPower confirmed it would meet with Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader. It said it had been “working closely” with the council and had already demonstrated “significant improvements this year”.

Scottish Water said it had “more than halved the number of defective apparatus in Edinburgh since 2011/12” – and “would be pleased to participate in further discussions, including on the ERWAA, which we have been engaging with the council on”.

SGN said: “We are doing our upmost to improve our reinstatement performance and since implementing further in-house inspections as part of our improvement plan, our pass rate has improved from quarter one to quarter two in 2015.” It said it was “happy to sign the ERWAA subject to discussion on a couple of minor points” and “always welcomed the opportunity to sit down with key stakeholders such as Cllr Hinds”.

BT Openreach, meanwhile, admitted it was “disappointed by the findings and recognised the need to do better” but has been “working closely” with contractors to improve. It said it had “regular discussions with the council” on how to deliver improvements.

But it added it was “not convinced that it would be beneficial to us or the individual authorities to enter into individual agreements [the ERWAA] with local/roads authorities – more than 200 UK-wide – when common standards and practices are already in place”.

The company insisted it would be “responding to Councillor Hinds’ request direct”.

Virgin Media said: “Our local contractors have rectified works which had failed inspections and are on an improvement plan.”

Cllr Hinds slammed the five companies’ performance as “completely unacceptable”. She said: “We now aim to carry out 100 per cent inspections to check improvement plans are adhered to, and to ensure minimum damage to roads. We have also asked utility companies to sign up to our ERWAA but, to this date, not one of these five companies has responded, which is extremely frustrating.”