HC Deb 09 May 2000 vol 349 cc371-2W
Mr. Webb

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions what steps he is taking to encourage utility companies and others to co-ordinate their activities in order to reduce the number of occasions on which roads and pavements are dug up. [121062]

Mr. Hill

Street works undertakers are required under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 to co-operate with highway authorities and one another to co-ordinate their works, in the interests of safety, and in order to minimise inconvenience to road users and protect the street and apparatus in it. This duty of co-ordination is backed by criminal sanctions. Highway authorities for their part must co-ordinate works of all kinds in the streets for which they are responsible. A code of practice issued under the Act sets out the co-ordination machinery in detail.

Regulations made last year under the 1991 Act aim to facilitate and encourage the electronic transfer of information about street works and other works in the highway between utilities and highway authorities, by way of a system known as ETON which makes use of the internet. This will ensure greater consistency and speed in transferring and registering the information, which in turn will help authorities in their co-ordination role.

On 5 April, in addition to announcing its intention to develop a scheme to charge utilities for street works which are unreasonably prolonged, the Government also stated that it would work with highway authorities and utilities to develop best practice on street works. Co-ordination and quality of work were specifically mentioned as areas to cover. We aim to publish guidance later this year.