Firms cough up £1.8m in charges for overrunning roadworks
PUBLISHED: 08:25 12 March 2020 | UPDATED: 08:26 12 March 2020
Companies that dig up Norfolk’s roads have been forced to hand over almost £1.8m in compensation in the last three years for failing to finish on time.
Figures reveal that one set of roadworks at Irstead, near Stalham, overran for three months (92 days), costing BT £23,000.
Utilities firms have to pay Norfolk County Council £250 for every day that the work runs beyond the promised completion date.
In 2018/2019 year the council received £723,300 in total, having been handed £430,625 in 2017/18 and £617,575 in 2016/2017.
The council said the money was 'reinvested into the highway service'.
Grahame Bygrave, director of highways, said: 'To ensure disruption is kept to a minimum we review applications from utility companies and coordinate works wherever possible in order to reduce congestion on the network.
'Crucially the majority of planned works are completed on time, however we do impose charges where roadworks overrun, and this income is reinvested into the highway service.'
During the three-year period, the council recorded 817 incidents where companies were penalised due to work extensions, with fines ranging from £100 to £82,000.
In the 2018/2019 year, Energetic Electricity and Gas Ltd paid £344,625 to the council, more than half of the total amount. This is the largest amount paid by one company to the council across the three years.
In 2017/2018 Anglian Water paid the largest total, upwards of £165,000, and the previous year Virgin Media paid the most with £141,000.
The civil charges are designed to compensate for any disruption caused to local road networks and residents further to what is already planned.
The fees are dependent on the number of days overrun, the type of work and the traffic sensitivity of the street.
The longest overrun in 2016/2017 was the one at Irstead. In 2017/2018 it was BT again with the longest delay of 83 days in Nelson Avenue, Downham Market, with a total fee of £20,750.
In 2018/2019 Anglian Water overran by 70 days with a fine of £17,500 for delays in Park Lane, Reepham.
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The fees are paid out under section 74 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991. It requires companies behind overrunning roadworks to pay a civil charge in compensation for 'society costs'. But companies are able to appeal these fees resulting in smaller costs.
What the companies say
A spokesperson for Openreach, BT, said: 'Each year we carry out around 300,000 jobs on roads, pavements and verges throughout the UK.
'It's a mix of improving and upgrading the network as well as fixing faults. The vast majority of our work finishes on-time with no issues. Of course, we never want to be in a position where we are fined and we always work closely with local authorities to try and minimise the impact of our work.'
An Anglian Water spokesperson said: 'We do sympathise with customers inconvenienced by the inevitable disruption our work involves.
'The nature of the job we do, the location of our vast pipe network and the need to dig underground to access it, means some disruption is unfortunately unavoidable. It's also essential to respond rapidly to keep toilets flushing and taps flowing.'
A Virgin Media spokesman said: 'Virgin Media always aims to minimise disruption to local residents.
'Expanding our network is a complex civil engineering task. After discussions with the council about some of the delays experienced with our expansion works, we agreed to pay £12,000.'
Energetic Electricity and Gas Ltd
An Energetics spokesperson said: 'We apologise for our street work over-runs in 2018/19. Energetics operate in partnership with many house builders, land and commercial property developers who rely on our trusted, timely and safe delivery of electricity, gas and water connections to major residential and commercial developments. We are modifying our operating processes to ensure all street work activities meet the required standard in Norfolk.'
A Cadent spokesman said: 'Sometimes projects can take longer than anticipated and despite our best efforts delays can be experienced. These can be caused by a variety of factors such as technical issues, engineering challenges and working in complex subterranean locations with other pipes, cables and underground structures in close proximity.'
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