Edinburgh roadworks: Council to crack down on companies responsible for roadworks

14,000 sets of roadworks in Edinburgh every year

Council chiefs are planning a crackdown on the companies who dig up Edinburgh's roads after one telecom firm incurred 176 fines in a year for over-running roadworks or failing to clear their sites.

The city council receives 14,000 notifications of roadworks from utility and telecom companies every year. Now it has launched a recruitment campaign for more inspectors to help police the works and check the companies are complying with the rules.

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A report to Thursday's transport committee reveals that one company, CityFibre, passed just 53 per cent of inspections carried out on its roadworks in the Capital in 2021/22 compared with the target minimum pass rate of 90 per cent, which most of the other major operators met.

The council is recruiting extra inspectors to check companies are complying with requirements. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

CityFibre also received more fixed penalty notices than any other public utility operator for breaching requirements – a total of 176, nearly a third of all fines issued. The report says these were for matters such as works not being completed within the set time or barriers, signage or piles of rubble not being removed at the end of the work. And it notes the total number of fines issued had been decreasing each year since 2018. but was now starting to rise again. "This is a direct result of CityFibre works."

The company was also responsible for 88 defective reinstatements outstanding at the end of 2021/22. The report says: "There are currently no public utility companies on an improvement notice with the council - however, due to the poor performance of CityFibre during the year, this is being considered with a view to issuing an improvement notice before the end of this current financial year."

City transport convener Scott Arthur said he understood the frustration which roadworks caused. "There is a lot of public concern. Edinburgh is a congested city and there is a narrative which says it's because the council poorly organises how it undertakes roadworks, whereas the vast majority of roadworks are undertaken by private companies."

He said trying to organise the annual 14,000 sets of roadworks in a way that minimised impact was a major undertaking. "We have to get it right, but a significant barrier is that utility companies do have the right to open up the road - and there is a growing number of them. Back in the day you just had BT as the only telecommunications company, now there's no end of them and they've all got the right to install and maintain their own equipment." He said he hoped in a year's time an increased number of inspectors would have made a difference.

The council receives 14,000 notifications of roadworks in the city every year. Picture: Greg Macvean.

On CityFibre, Cllr Arthur said he welcomed the investment the company was bringing to Edinburgh, and the constructive relationship the council had built with them. "I’ve discussed CityFibre’s poor performance with their city manager directly, and he shares my concerns and has assured me that the company is taking non-trivial steps to improve the situation. We have agreed to hold an urgent meeting to talk through their plans and agree a way forward.”

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Paul Wakefield, CityFibre’s area manager for Edinburgh, said: “We are working hard with our build partners to improve our rollout and will continue to meet regularly with council highways officers to ensure our sites are finished to a high standard, with as little disruption as possible caused to residents. CityFibre is investing £100m in transforming Edinburgh’s digital infrastructure and bringing next generation full fibre connectivity to the city. This is a major undertaking and we ask the local community to bear with us. We would like to assure them that any short-term disruption will pay off tremendously in the long-term.”