Why are people allowed to dig up the roads so often?
We can't stop a statutory undertaker from digging up the road. Under the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, they have a legal right to maintain their existing pipes, cables etc., or to install new ones.
For all works on the footpath or highway, they have to give notice. The bigger the work, the longer the notice - from two hours for emergency works to 28 days for some planned works.
Why doesn't the council tell people their road is going to be dug up?
The amount of work constantly being carried out makes it impractical to notify residents about each set of works. Several thousand jobs are carried out each year by statutory undertakers alone. The majority of these last for less than 3 days.
Why do people dig up the road right after the council has resurfaced it?
When we resurface a road, we serve a special legal notice on all the statutory undertakers who work in Middlesbrough. This stops them from digging up the road for up to 5 years after we've finished the resurfacing work.
There are exceptions to this notice, for emergencies and for providing new services to customers.
If we find that works are taking place in a road where we have served a notice, and the works don't meet our criteria for exception, we reserve the right to instigate legal proceedings.
Why are some holes in the road left open with no work going on?
In general, statutory undertakers and their contractors don't want to leave holes in the road open any longer than they have to. It costs money to keep barriers and lights around holes, and they may be legally liable for any accidents.
There are some instances where holes have to be left open when there is no work going on. For instance, where gas has seeped into the ground, or into cable ducts. In these cases, it has to be allowed to escape into the open air over a period of time.
If a statutory undertaker goes beyond the planned end date for their works, which has been agreed with us, they can be charged a daily penalty. This varies from £100 to £2500, depending on the road and type of works.
Why does it always seem to take longer than planned?
Depending on the age of the road, there may be little or no record of which pipes and cables have been laid beneath it in the past, and finding something unexpected can delay works. Even the most sophisticated systems which can detect underground services aren't 100% accurate. Cellars and vaults, which may extend under the pavement and the road, can also cause problems, as accurate information on them isn't always available.
All these things can combine to make work take longer than planned.
Why don't the companies work together?
We have a duty to coordinate the work of statutory undertakers, but we can't force them to work together.
We hold formal full coordination meetings up to three times a year. Council staff responsible for road maintenance and new projects attend, as well as representatives of all the statutory undertakers.
There are some particular problems with joint-working take place.
Telecommunications ('cable') companies carry out much of the high-profile work in Middlesbrough. This is a highly competitive business, and some cable companies are reluctant to reveal anything about their plans, beyond what they legally have to say.
Some works can't safely take place together.
Sometimes, due to the location of each company’s equipment in the street, the space they need to occupy to let them work together would actually be more disruptive.
We have been successful in persuading some companies to work together and lay several cables in one trench, but we can't force them to do it.
Why does the council suspend parking for several days before the works start and after they finish?
When a company needs parking bays to be suspended to allow it to carry out works, it tells the council its planned start and finish date for the works.
Unfortunately, sometimes the company fails to start on the planned date. If they tell us, we can change the parking suspensions accordingly, but if they don't tell us we can't. Similarly they often simply don't tell us if they finish earlier than planned.
There are so many requests for parking suspensions that we can't check every one to see if the work started and finished on time. We have to rely on the people who carry out the work to tell us of any changes.
To combat this problem, we work closely with statutory undertakers on major projects. We insist that parking suspension staff are involved from the planning stage and throughout the life of the works.
Statutory Undertakers and Licences
Certain companies or public bodies have a legal right (under the New Roads and Street Works Act) to dig up roads in order to install new pipes, cables etc., or to maintain their existing ones. These are known as statutory undertakers.
In general these are companies that supply water, gas, electricity and telecommunications.
Most of the statutory undertakers do not carry out their works themselves, but use contractors to do the work. The contractors should display a board saying who they are, who they are working for and giving a contact phone number.