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Repeal statutory undertaker rights to dig holes

Comment 2nd September 2010

When gas, electric, water and phones were privatised, they took with them in to the private sector almost unlimited powers to dig holes for repair, replacement and laying infrastructure. These powers were – perhaps – tolerable when the company was under ultimate ministerial control. But now these powers are massively abused in the pursuit of profit. Utilities routinely:

  • dig up pavements and paving in pedestrian areas, and instead of making good on a like for like basis, they cover the hole in tarmac, which soon settles and puddles. As Council's have a got a grip of the quality of the public realm, millions of pounds worth of damage to good modern – often decorative – paving is inflicted by these companies, leaving us with uneven and patchwork walking environments
  • dig up roads without coordinating with other utilities, so that the same road can be dug up successively, causing disruption and traffic delays
  • fail to make rapid progress with works, also causing traffic delays in roads, and unsightly and often unsafe conditions on pavements

It's time these powers were removed, and they were forced to book their work with the council,  pay for the chaos they cause (including delays to drivers and passengers), and reinstate like for like.

Why does this matter?

  1. The powers private utilities have should never have passed from state ownership to profit maximisers
  2. The delay and inconvenience of the uncoordinated and over long road and pavement works is costing us all a fortune, and they pay nothing for the right to do this to us, and have no incentive to improve
  3. The damage they do by digging up well laid paving stones, cobbles, brick paviours, etc, and replacing with uneven tarmac is wasting millions of pounds of public money, and ruining the look of our streets and – especially – pavements.
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