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Misery for Wolverhampton drivers as roadworks overrun by 2,200 days

By Rob Golledge | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Roadworks overran by more than 2,200 days over the last three years in Wolverhampton, it has been revealed

Wolverhampton council has issued 72 fines to big utility companies such as Western Power Distribution, BT Openreach, National Gird, Virgin Media, and Severn Trent Water over the period, taking in £33,000 last year.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act shows 1,314 days of overruns in 2016/17, 599 in 2015/16, and 291 in 2014/15.

And the number of fines being issued has steadily increased from just nine in 2014/15 to 33 for 2016/17.

Councils can issue fines of up to £5,000 for each day work overruns on major roads.

Wolverhampton council says there are around 6,000 roadwork schemes every year in the city, and that the region's five big utility companies are behind around 5,500 of them on average.

Some of the schemes listed as 'overrunning' were completed on time but workers had to return months later because they had left the road in a poor condition, meaning road works were not in place on all of the 2,204 overrun days.

The worst case in city was not completed until 683 days – one year 10 months and 13 days – after its scheduled finish. Western Power Distribution (WPD), which oversaw the work in Keepers Lane in Tettenhall in December 2014, say the scheme was finished and the road reopened on time within seven days. However, the firm had forgotten to repaint white lines on the road. The council flagged up the failure nearly two years later in November 2016 after an inspection, and the work was promptly completed.

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WPD spokesman Michael Clarke said: "Once we were made aware of our error we rectified it in a day, and there wasn't a huge impact on the road."

The scheme at Keepers Lane would have led to a fine of around £145,000 – but the council and Western Power Distribution later agreed on a fee of £250, given there was only one further day of minor disruption.

Similarly, the second longest overrunning scheme, according to the council's logs, was by BT Openreach on Stockwell Road, also in Tettenhall. The authority recorded that the five day scheme overran by 399 days.

Again, the company says the work was completed promptly but workmen returned over a year later after the council queried the standard of work.

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The documents released by Wolverhampton Council also suggest overruns of 150 days, 118 days and 94 days – but most works overran by between one and nine days.

The worst overrunning roadworks in Wolverhampton

Wolverhampton Liberal Democrat campaigner Paul Butters, who unearthed the figures, said: “I'm gobsmacked at these figures. It seems that when one utility or big business finishes digging up our roads another one swoops in to dig it up again. What should take a couple of days seems to take them months or even years. It's bonkers.

“These businesses should be fined more for every day they bring gridlock to our city. These big businesses are getting too big for their boots and they need to be given a shock.

“All of this adds to the congestion and traffic woes in Wolverhampton."

Council spokesman Tim Clark said: "As a local authority we will routinely inspect a random sample of 30 per cent of schemes. It is the utility companies responsibility to restore the road to the required standard. If the road is not to the required standard, they have to come back to complete the work."

Street Works UK chief executive Bob Gallienne, who represents utilities companies, said: “Utilities companies in carrying out their essential works are fully committed to, and understand the significance of, minimising occupation of the road and avoiding disruption for road users. The evidence shows that our works only over-run in around 2% of all cases. Highways authority data shows that over-runs by local authorities compared to utilities are five times higher.

“We share the Government’s belief in the importance of infrastructure projects in driving economic growth, productivity and prosperity across the country. But these simply cannot be delivered without street works – from new housing and fast broadband roll out to making our energy network fit for future developments, such as electric vehicles. Street works makes a huge contribution to the UK as the enabler of this agenda.

“Street Works UK is leading the development of a Future Strategy for Street Works, bringing together partners across the sector to set out a blue print for delivering world class street works which minimise occupation for road users. We’re keen to work collaboratively with all our partners to bring this to fruition.”

Rob Golledge

By Rob Golledge
@golledge_star

Part of the Express & Star special projects team responsible for investigations and major stories from politics to counter terrorism

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