Monday, 21 July 2014

Street Works Law: The Unending Story

This blog posting consists of little more than extracts from Hansard on the proposed "Street Works Law". The purpose of the law was to ensure, among other matters, that utility companies repaired the roads sufficiently well that they would be guaranteed to last for three years - or the contractor would suffer the burden of fixing any potholes etc which had arisen through over-hasty repair patches.
Currently, the time for the road to be in good condition is limited to one year, and 6 months for trench work. The bumpy state of the roads, worsened as expansion cracks appear, is the result. The road surface has only to survive one winter, for example, where ice can get into the cracks. After that, it is the taxpayer, by way of TTS or the Parishes, which has to fund the cost of repairing a deteriorating road surface. It is rather like a warrantee on a washing machine, which just begins to give trouble after the year is up.
The state of the Street Works Law is farcical, as these extracts show. As far back as 2009, work was going to start on the law, which was "well under way", and would be there in 2009 or early 2010. Then we were told it would appear in 2012, which came and gone, and no law. By 2013, it was "the not too distant future", and "We have the Street Works Law in the pipeline.", and later we were told it would be there "by the middle of next year" - that is, 2014. Well, we are in the middle of 2014, and we are now being told it will come in "late this year, early next year".
Is this law ever to arrive? Let me present to you a fairy tale, a just so story, of what might be happening behind the scenes, although this is purely imagination, and I am sure bears little resemblance to the truth, even if it may appear plausible in places (if you knew the behind the scenes happenings).
I can imagine some law draftsman, tucked away in an office, delving into the minutiae of the law, and - being such a perfectionist - never quite happy with the state of affairs. There is always room for improvement, he tells himself, and then other laws come along, and every so often he returns to peruse it, and pick up where he had left off, polishing it so that it will eventually be a masterpiece of perfection, although this may still take several years to complete.
That glory of the ancient world, Rome, was not built in a day - and he will tell his Minister that every time they press him on the matter, and they will shrug their shoulders, and hope that if they say the law will come in after an election, no one will hold these interminable delays against them.
Street Works Law: The Unending Story
TUESDAY, 24th MARCH 2009
The Connétable of St. Brelade:
The new Street Works Law, to which I alluded earlier on, is long overdue and I am
very keen to have it on the statute books and this, as I suggested, will take place either
during the course of this year or early 2010. I
16.4 The Deputy of St. Mary:
It is just a question for the Chief Minister.  On page 108 under T.T.S.: "Work will start on a new Street Works Law with the object of enforcing a co-ordinated and managed street works policy."  My understanding on Scrutiny was that work on this law was already well under way and a good thing, too, so I just want clarification on the rather odd wording: "Work will start on ..."  I am concerned that we need to get on with this because lack of that Street Works Law is costing the Island a lot of money.
The Connétable of St. Brelade:
If the Chief Minister will give way briefly, just to clarify, the Street Works Law is well underway.  Consultations have taken place with all parties involved and we have got now to the legislation stage where the Law Officers are being instructed.  So, this is the final tranche of the law.
TUESDAY, 15th MARCH 2011
The Connétable of St. Brelade:
I fully empathise with the Deputy's remarks regarding these situations and, in order to address that, the department is working on a new Street Works Law which I am hoping will come before this Assembly early in 2012.
TUESDAY, 19th JULY 2011
Bob Hill, St Martin
The States are asked to decide whether they are of opinion (a) to agree that appropriate legislation should be brought forward for approval to make the States, in respect of main roads ('grandes routes') and the Parishes in respect of Parish roads (chemins vicinaux), legally responsible for damage to individuals suffered as a result of negligence caused by a failure by the relevant highway authority to maintain the roads and pavements in a proper state of repair and (b) to request the Minister for Transport and Technical Services to bring forward the appropriate amendments for States approval.
Mike Jackson:
Just before closing, I would say that prior to being elected I was a roads inspector for the Parish of St. Brelade for some 6 years and I can assure Members that those roads inspectors in the Parishes do a diligent job.  They pick up all sorts of omissions in the road surfaces and I would say that the bulk of those issues are created by third parties digging up the public roads and I will refer to the new street works law which the Deputy mentioned earlier on and I am keen that this becomes on the statute book and I certainly think it will be during the course of next year.  It is in the later stages of preparation and that will certainly assist my department in managing the utility companies during their trenching processes, which are undertaken at the moment.
Connétable J.M. Refault of St. Peter:
Moving back to the proposition, I think the Deputy of St. Martin has brought forward a well-meaning and responsible proposition that protects the public from injury.  However, it is unfortunately, I believe, out of sync with the reality of where we are.  We are just months away now from seeing the Street Works Law, which is being put together by Transport and Technical Services, come into fruition, hopefully around about June next year, which puts a lot of responsibilities on the people that damage the roads deliberately because they are the utilities and they have to open the roads to get to their services.  The new Street Works Law also makes provisions to ensure that the repair is done to a far higher standard and also to involve the area of influence of the works that they are doing.  All too often we see, particularly after wet periods and cold periods, where on the interface between the old and the new asphalt potholes will appear overnight.
Connétable A.S. Crowcroft of St. Helier:
One of the things that I am most worried about is any delay to the long-awaited Street Works Law and effectively that is what will happen if the Deputy's proposition is passed.  T.T.S. effectively seems to me to be required to make space in their work that will be delayed and, from my point of view, the majority of things we are dealing with result from utility companies digging up highways and pavements and other third parties, not just utility companies.  The sooner we can get a handle on that and legislate and make them do the job properly, the safer our pavements and highways will be.
1.2.15 The Deputy of St. Mary:
The other 4 points I was going to make briefly, the Constable of St. Helier spoke about the Street Works Law and he said: "If we do not refer this back, somehow the Street Works Law might be delayed."  Well, that is extraordinary because my understanding was that that was with the law draftsman.  He also suggested that the virtue of the Street Works Law is that the sooner it gets passed it will make them do the job properly.  Well, amen to that.
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
I think there are several facets to that question.  We have the Street Works Law in the pipeline.  That should be arriving soon regarding who digs up the road, when and where. 
4.1.2 Deputy S. Power of St. Brelade:
Could the Minister give the Assembly an indication on the quality of the road resurfacing that is done as a result of trenching and digging and retrenching and resurfacing, whether his department exercises some degree of control over the quality of the resurfacing, because some streets like Gloucester Street are appalling?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
I would agree, and all the trenching is guaranteed for a period of time.  This will be tightened up in the not too distant future by the Street Works Law, which will make it mandatory to consult with Transport and Technical Services, acquire their permission, and we are going to raise the standards all the time for trenching works
4.1.4 Deputy J.M. Maçon of St. Saviour:
The Minister mentioned the long-awaited Street Works Law.  Can he advise us what draft we are in and when it is likely to be lodged at this Assembly for debate?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
I believe it is with the Law Officers, but I need to get back to Members on that.
4.1.6 The Connétable of St. John:
Out of interest, I have just turned a pad over and I have got a 1998 cartoon of road improvements that were guaranteed by the president of the day that they would all be done by 2004.  We are now nearly in 2014.  The Street Works Law was being spoken about in my time on the committee of the day, back at the turn of the century, and the Minister is telling us that he cannot give us a real update of when it is coming to the House.  He is blaming the Law Draftsmen's Office. Surely, Minister, you must be on top and be able to give us a date when the Street Works Law is coming to the House.
The Deputy Bailiff:
I did not understand him to be blaming the Law Draftsmen's Office.  I understood the Minister to say the draft law was with the Attorney General's Department, but Minister?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
Absolutely, Sir, I am not blaming anybody.  In f act, we are very grateful to the Law Draftsmen's Office for progressing this.  It will be with us as soon as possible.
TUESDAY, 16th APRIL 2013
2.6.2 The Connétable of St. John:
Given that a number of main arteries into St. Helier have been resurfaced over the last 5 to 7 years, will the Minister please explain how come Queens Road, for instance, has had its manholes lifted on several occasions because of failing asphalt and I note, even again this morning on my way in, that the manholes have been boxed again in yellow paint because a number of holes are appearing yet again.  Can it be right and are the States picking up the bill for this maintenance work or is this being done under the original contractor's warranty?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
Repairs of this kind are guaranteed for 12 months.  With the new Street Works Law, which will be coming in the middle of next year, that will be extended to 3 years.  If the roads are handed back to the States, they will be guaranteed for 3 years and any repairs will be taking place at the contractor's expense.
2.6.4 Deputy T.A. Vallois:
It is fine to have policy and procedures laid out, but it is how they are implemented.  How would the Minister know whether it was the contractor's fault or the officer's way of implementing those policies and procedures?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
It is all very closely monitored but there are occasions where trenching is done without the knowledge of the department, or should I say they are reinstated without an officer present.  This will be covered in the new Street Works Law where it will be clearly laid down.
2.6.7 Deputy G.C.L. Baudains:
Could the Minister assure the Assembly that the process used in resurfacing roads will revert to the original more satisfactory process where it was laid in 2 layers instead of the one layer they are doing now?  On trench reinstatement, can he assure this Assembly that his officers are monitoring trench reinstatement so that it is compacted and it is level as they go, because I do not believe there are any utility trench reinstatements being satisfactorily monitored by his department?
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
It is monitored by the department but, as I have stated, sometimes the trench is reinstated without an officer present.  This will be covered by the new Street Works Law coming in the middle of next year where they will be legally obliged.
TUESDAY, 17th JUNE 2014
Deputy K.C. Lewis:
The utility companies have a right in urgent matters to dig up any road they feel necessary.  That is the state of law at the moment.  But we will be having a Street Works Law coming in, I believe, late this year, early next year which will formalise everything where everything has to be approved in advance.  We do have agreements with utility companies with regard to digging-up freshly laid roads.  We have about a 3-year moratorium on that, but in an emergency, mains, electricity, a water main bursting, et cetera, or a major fault, they must go in and dig the road up, which is unfortunate, but we do keep it to an absolute minimum.

1 comment:

TonyTheProf said...

Comment from Bob Hill

Thanks for another interesting Blog and mentioning my “potholes” proposition P75/2011 which the States rejected by 30 votes to 18. Apart from Simon Crowcroft the remaining 11 Connetables were among the 30. The Connetable of St Brelade who was the Minister of Transport and Technical Services used the proposed Law as a red herring to defeat my proposition.

At present neither the States nor the Parishes are liable for the upkeep of their roads or lanes. If through the failure to repair potholes, some one should trip and fall there is no way that the Authorities are liable.

The proposed Streets Works Law will not rectify the problem so if it’s dark take a torch because if you don’t see a pothole or hole dug by the Utility Companies it is your fault.

F.J. (Bob) Hill, BEM
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