Devon highways chiefs to scrutinise quality of road repairs by utility companies

The roads will be closed in Congresbury.

The roads will be closed in Congresbury. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The reinstatement of Devon’s roads by utility companies will be scrutinised next month.

The latest findings from Devon County Council’s (DCC) annual coring programme, which tests work by utility companies, has revealed that standards have slipped over the past year.

Around 300 core samples were randomly taken from utility reinstatements across the county from July 2015 to July 2016.

This programme examined samples from 146 roads and 155 footways, all of which had complied with visual inspections.

According to DCC’s investigations, 84.5 per cent of Western Power Distribution’s reinstatements were up to scratch – down from 92 per cent last year.

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Almost 81 per cent of samples of South West Water’s reinstatements passed, but that’s a fall from 87 per cent in 2015.

Wales and West achieved the second lowest pass rate, at just over 66 per cent, compared to 70 per cent last year.

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The only company to show any improvement was BT, but just under 66 per cent of its work met the required standard. However, this was up from 62% in 2015.

Each core sample is analysed for its depth/thickness, the quality of how the bituminous material is compacted (indicated by air voids), the correct type of aggregate to ensure skid resistance meets current specifications.

The most common fault was air voids, which were found to be defective in 66 (22 per cent) of the core samples.

The results have prompted DCC’s cabinet member for highway management, Councillor Stuart Hughes, to request that the authority’s place scrutiny committee should look at the issue next month (15 November).

Cllr Hughes said: “Poor quality reinstatements impact on our road network, weakening the structure of the road and leading to defects.

“Our budgets are already stretched because of the ongoing reductions from central Government, so the last thing we need is sub-standard work which leads to further long term problems that require more extensive repairs.

“We’ve carried out our coring programme since 2002 which has helped the utility companies and their statutory undertakers to improve standards of reinstatements of our roads, so I’m disappointed and concerned to see a downward turn in the quality over the past year.

“We’re keen to continue working with statutory undertakers and contractors to ensure high standards are achieved.”

Cllr Ray Radford, who chairs DCC’s place scrutiny committee, said: “DCC’s place scrutiny committee has examined this issue closely in the past, but it hasn’t done so for a while.

“Following these latest results, it would appear that the quality of reinstatements needs to be re-visited so we can put it under the microscope again.”

DCC’s coring programme randomly selects sites to ensure compliance across the county.

Around 88 per cent of samples of repairs by Devon’s term maintenance contractor complied with required standards.

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