Utility firms reported to roadworks tsar over poor record

All five of the major utility companies have been reported over poor roadworks. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
All five of the major utility companies have been reported over poor roadworks. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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FIVE major utility companies have been reported to Scotland’s roadworks tsar and could face huge fines over their poor record on reinstating the Capital’s roads after digging them up.

The move to report the firms to the Scottish Road Works Commissioner, who has the power to impose fines of up to £50,000, comes after an increase in the number of botched repairs by utility firms across the city.

Latest figures show a total of 1024 outstanding repairs in the first quarter of this year – from April to June – up from 950 in the previous quarter. Scottish Water was responsible for the biggest number, 332; Virgin Media 230; CityFibre 161; Scottish Power 133; OpenReach 108; and SGN 60.

Transport and environment convener Lesley Hinds said today: “We are extremely disappointed with the performance of the utility companies.

“I met every single chief executive or head of the utility companies and they all said ‘Yes, we’re going to improve, we’ll look at how we can work with you, etcetra, etcetera, and yet we have a poorer performance.

“It’s very frustrating – and if you’re only paying £120 as a fine it’s probably nothing to them. We reported the utility companies to the Scottish Road Works Commissioner on August 31 and we’re waiting for a response.”

The only fines the city council can impose on the 
utility giants are £120 fixed penalty notices for failing to meet 
requirements.

A total of 150 fixed penalty notices were handed out between April and June, with Scottish Water, Scottish Power, SGN (Scottish Gas Networks), Virgin Media and BT Openreach – dubbed the “Infamous Five” – now facing tougher penalties from the Commissioner.

None of the utility companies met the target 90 per cent pass rate in inspections. CityFibre achieved a pass rate of just 18 per cent.

Scottish Water said it had halved the number of defective ironworks on Edinburgh’s streets since 2011-12 and the quality of roadwork reinstatements had also improved.

“Being a unique utility with two remits – providing both water and waste water services – means we have more assets and infrastructure to manage – a vast network of 2500 miles of underground pipes in 
Edinburgh.”

Scottish Power said it was working hard to improve its performance and recognised there was room for improvement. Virgin Media said it tried to minimise disruption to local communities. “We are committed to reinstating roads and work areas to the highest standard.”

BT Openreach said it took the council’s concerns extremely seriously and had recently appointed a new contractor. “We’ll continue to strive to address the issues raised.”

A spokeswoman for SGN said: “We are doing our utmost to improve our reinstatement performance.”