The Ranty Highwayman)
It has always been the job of the transport secretary to announce daft ideas which have no basis in reality and this week, Chris Graying continued the tradition.
It was reported that Grayling wants to;
‘[C]reate a default that you have to look first at laying the utilities under the pavements rather than under the roads.’
and ‘that companies would not be allowed to dig up pavements on both sides of road at the same time, to ensure that pedestrian routes were retained where possible.’
The reason for this piece of thinking was that;
‘[P]otholes are far more likely to appear on sections of roads that had been recently dug up.’
Perhaps it was a populist dead cat thrown around before the local elections where local candidates make the clarion call for investment in Roads’n’Pavements and announce the inevitable War On Potholes.
Perhaps he was just poorly briefed because believe it or not, this is already pretty much the default position. The reason I make this statement is based on three things;
(i) Cost – utilities laid under the carriageway (in the road) is more expensive than laying them under the footway (pavement) and utility companies don’t want to spend more than they have to,
(ii) Space – footways generally provide less space than is available with a carriageway and large utility mains need a lot of space,
(iii) Legislation – there is legislation which dictates how and when streetworks should take place; partly to prevent (motor traffic) congestion and partly to ensure temporary works are safe.
We have been laying utilities under, on and over our streets for well over 100 years and so the problem of digging up the street isn’t new. These days, we have guidance and laws to manage the process and so Grayling isn’t adding anything useful here.