FIVE major utility firms are responsible for hundreds of botched roadworks across the Capital, it has been revealed.
A record number of 824 bungled road repairs are currently waiting to be fixed throughout Edinburgh – more than twice the number recorded just three years ago.
Now frustrated city chiefs have issued the five main utility firms with a final warning before referring them to the Scottish Road Works Commissioner, a body that has the power to issue £50,000 fines.
The unprecedented move will see Scottish Water, SGN, Scottish Power, BT Openreach and Virgin Media all given just three months to prove they can turn themselves around.
Hugh Bladon, co-founder of the Alliance of British Drivers, said road users were “fed up” with the “awful” state of the roads – and insisted much of it boiled down to “laziness” on the part of utilities companies.
He said: “It’s a major problem. We pay for the blinking roads, so we should have decent roads – and not be driving over trenches and manholes that have not been put down correctly.”
Meanwhile, Neil Greig of the Institute of Advanced Motorists praised council efforts to “name and shame” the companies responsible, but said the roads commissioner needed to be harsher.
He said: “It’s a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go before the utilities get their house in order. We have to try and find a way to really make the utilities sit up and listen.”
But Tory transport spokesman Councillor Nick Cook said it was “regrettable” the council had taken so long to take concrete action.
Last financial year, council inspectors clocked a total of 673 faulty apparatus left at the site of road works – taking in everything from cracked manhole covers to loose access hatches – risking further potholes forming on the streets.
Scottish Water is the worst offender, with the company failing to properly reinstate 390 sites by the end of the last financial year – accounting for almost half of all botched works.
None of the five utility companies achieved the target 90 per cent pass rate in inspections carried out during the last 12 months, while more than 550 fixed penalty notices of between £80 and £120 were dished out to companies for failing to properly register their roadworks.
Council efforts to get the main players to sign up to the new Edinburgh Road Works Ahead Agreement (ERWAA) – a document outlining ways they can improve their performance, such as removing temporary traffic lights at weekends – have also received little response. So far, CityFibre is the only company to sign up.
A Scottish Water spokeswoman said “additional resources” had been brought in earlier this year to deal with outstanding repairs, which she insisted were a “reflection of the size and scale of Scottish Water’s infrastructure in the city”.
She said: “Scottish Water has been working very hard to bring down the number of these repairs as they occur, and are determined to increase the pace of improvement.”
A spokeswoman for SGN said they were “committed to improving [their] performance” and added they were happy to sign the ERWAA agreement “subject to further discussion on a couple of minor points”.
Meanwhile, an Openreach spokesman said: “We’ve been working closely with the council and our contractors to improve our performance and have been making progress with defect reduction. We are committed to raising standards and are in discussions with the council to work towards an agreed position.”
And Scottish Power insisted they “already adhere to existing legislation in place across Scotland”, adding: “We aim to deliver the highest standards of work. We will also always seek to improve working practices where possible.”
Virgin Media said they were “working closely with the council to ensure the performance of our street works operation is consistent with expectation and in line with regulations”.
Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s transport leader, said she would be writing to each company’s senior executive to discuss a way forward.
She said: “I know it is incredibly frustrating for the public when they encounter deteriorating roads or delays as a result of repairs by utility companies – this just isn’t good enough.
“The Edinburgh Road Works Ahead Agreement is aimed at working more closely with the utility companies and the fact that only one company has agreed to sign up is extremely discouraging, so that’s why we need to take action.”