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Pipe Jacking Association urges high level action on utility issues

A policy paper initiated by the Pipe Jacking Association (PJA) has brought together the the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) and the RAC Foundation to call for action over utility work disruption.

The group has put forward proposals to the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) and the Department for Transport with the aim of reducing or eliminating the problems of disruption to strategic urban infrastructure by utility roadworks.

The call comes on the back of the “What can be done to reduce congestion caused by roadworks? Policy paper.

Commenting on the paper, ICE president Lord Mair said: Congestion continues to be a major headache for road users and it is essential that industry, and government, look at ways to lessen the problem. It is important that the users, many who are tax payers, are considered equally alongside the need for utilities companies to undertake their work”.

The paper resulted from a proposal put forward by the PJA which promotes use of non-disruptive techniques for utilities in urban locations.

PJA chairman Graeme Monteith said: We believe that the NIC is responsive to a progressive outcome-based solution to minimising strategic urban road disruption caused by utility roadworks. Non-disruptive solutions need to be prioritised in the interests of road users, local communities and other stakeholders wherever practicable and economic.”

In an open letter to NIC chairman Sir John Armitt on behalf of the group, Monteith noted the conflict between the requirement to install and upgrade essential utilities and the communities’ requirements for a continuous fully operational urban road network. Monteith told Armit that “one of our most important strategic infrastructures – key urban highways – lack coherent protection and management unlike other major transport networks such as those operated by Highways England and Network Rail”.

In its submission, the consortium urges the NIC to prioritise the pressures on urban road capacity in its forthcoming infrastructure assessment. It argues that there is a strong case for government to commission a review of the management of street works, in particular the economic impacts of disruption and the appropriate regulatory incentives that apply to the utility companies, as well as the availability, costs and benefits of the engineering options that exist for minimising the disruption caused by street works - including alternatives to breaking the carriageway at all. It suggests that such a review would need to draw in not just the perspectives of highway authorities and contractors but also the utility companies and their regulators.

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