Roadworks - Frequently asked questions

Who keeps digging up our roads? The Council has a number of contractors who are responsible for maintaining our roads, footways and street furniture. Utility companies such as Thames Water, National Grid, UK Power Network, BT Openreach and Virgin Media also carry out works.

Why do these people dig up our roads? The Council need to ensure our roads, footways and street furniture are maintained in a safe condition. The Council also carries out work to enhance the environment for our residents.

Utility companies need to repair and sometimes lay new cables and pipes in order to maintain, or provide, new electric, water, gas and telecommunications to our residents and businesses. A lot of both gas and water pipes are very old, some over 100 years and are beginning to fail therefore need replacing.

Why don’t the Council stop the utilities from digging up the road sometimes?  The utility companies have a legal right to gain access to their equipment in our roads so we cannot prevent them from doing so. We do however have a responsibility to co-ordinate these works alongside other works and activities that may be happening. 

Why is there so much traffic disruption every time someone digs up a road?  We work closely with the utility companies to agree on the best available way in which to carry out the work to minimise the amount of disruption but because this type of work often involves taking out road space this will inevitably lead to some disruption. 

Why doesn’t the Council ask the utility companies to work in the evenings when it is quieter on the roads? We sometimes agree for work to be done at night but this is always considered alongside the additional impact this has on local residents in terms of noise and nuisance.

Why are some holes left open for long periods of time with no work being carried out?  Typically utility companies don’t want to leave holes open because the longer they are left open the more money it costs them. In some cases where there has been a reported gas leak holes need to be left open to allow the build up of gas to escape into the open air until it is safe to carry out the repair work. In other cases the holes need to be left open to accommodate other associated work sites that are away from the hole that is not being worked on.

In some cases the utility company may not have resourced the job properly in which case we use all our available powers to expedite the works. 

Why don’t utility companies have to suspend parking bays? Utility companies have a legal right to access their plant and apparatus within the road however they will not always be able to do this because of parked vehicles. Where this is the case they will typically look to apply for parking suspensions. 

How long are the suspensions in place for?  We only suspend parking on the first day of the works to facilitate access. If the utility company fails to attend site on the first day then the suspension will be lifted at the end of the day, or earlier if we are notified that the works have been delayed or cancelled. If the works last longer than two days and they commence work on the first day the suspension signs will be removed but the utility company will still be able to complete their works because they already occupy the area in which they need to work.  

What about additional suspensions that may be required to allow vehicles to pass?  Additional parking bays opposite the work site may need to be suspended in order to maintain traffic flow and prevent the need to close the road. In these cases the suspension signs will not be removed after the first day and instead will be left in place until the work is fully complete. 

Why don’t the utility companies or the Council let residents know when the roads are being dug up? We receive approximately 10,000-12,000 requests to dig up the road each year with the majority of these only requiring three days prior notice so it would be impossible for us to do this.  

For larger scaled works and works that require longer prior notification we do request utilities notify residents and businesses which they are happy to do. Residents and businesses are also encouraged to access Transport for London’s central register of street works which contains records of all known planned works, including those with short durations. The Council also produces a weekly works bulletin with captures most of the major works that are happening which residents can either view on the website or sign up to receive individual alerts.

Why do utilities sometimes dig up the newly laid surfacing shortly after the Council has only just laid it?  There are certain powers available to us that allow us to protect our newly laid surfacing for a period of between 3-5years which we apply robustly. However, there are certain exemptions which apply that allow emergency works and works associated with providing new services to customers to be carried out. 

Why don’t all the different companies carry out their works at the same time using the same holes they dig?  We will always look to arrange joint working wherever possible but it is sometimes very difficult due to the nature and timing of the different types of works. However, we have had some major successes doing this over the years and have saved over 1385 days of additional disruption between April 2010 and March 2016.

How does the Council co-ordinate works? We have a legal duty to co-ordinate works and we meet regularly with all the different utility companies and our own contractors to agree work programmes to avoid clashes and minimise disruption. 

We operate a permit scheme which provides us with the most effective powers to manage street works. The permit scheme allows us to control when works are carried out and apply certain conditions on how the works are carried out. The council’s own contractor is treated in the same way as utility companies in terms of having to apply for a permit to carry out works. 

If utility companies fail to carry out the works in the correct manner we are able to issue fixed penalty notices in some instances. We also have powers that allow us to apply a daily fine if these companies fail to complete their works on time.