All highway authorities receive regular requests from utility companies for essential works to their services on the public highway. Requests can come in from a variety of sources, including water, gas, electric or telecoms companies, who have a legal duty to carry out work to maintain, or upgrade, key infrastructure.
These companies are known as statutory undertakers which means they have legal rights to carry out work to their apparatus within the highway. No highway authority can prevent a statutory undertaker from carrying out its legal duty.
The council’s role is to ensure disruption is minimised by co-ordinating roadworks and to ensure proper practice is applied during the works to maintain public safety. It is the case that highway authorities may be involved at the planning stage, particularly on larger projects. At this stage the highway authority will suggest ways to best accommodate the works, to avoid clashing with other works, and to limit the impact to residents and other road users.
It is, however, the legal responsibility of the statutory undertaker to present its management plan which should take into account every aspect of the work. This includes not just road-based traffic management, but also the safety of everyone, whether workers themselves, delivery of equipment and materials, removal of waste and the environmental impact through noise and dust for example. All aspects of the work is entirely the legal resposibility of the statutory undertaker and its contractors.
Some requests by utility companies are of course easier to accommodate than others, depending in the nature of the work and its exact location. Where they are positioned on a major strategic road junction a level of disruption is inevitable. In these cases we will work with the statutory undertaker/contractor and suggest adjustments as work progresses.