Utility firms dig 2 MILLION holes in our roads every year

Last updated at 14:32 29 February 2008

road dig

Utility firms dug a staggering two million holes in Britain's roads last year - one for every 200 yards of highway, new figures have revealed.

Gas, electricity and water firms excavated an average of 12,500 trenches in each local authority area.

Motoring campaigners seized on the figures to accuse utility firms of causing congestion and creating unnecessary pollution.

Sheila Rainger, acting director of the RAC Foundation, said drivers were getting "a raw deal".

She said: "As long as utility companies enjoy a free hand to dig up the roads, motorists will pay the price with expensive and frustrating delays.

"Having to dodge so many holes just to go about their business adds to congestion and damages the environment."

She said local councils were being left to repair increasing numbers of bodged jobs done by the utility firms.

Currently, the companies are able to dig holes in the road as part of their business almost at will.

However, the Department for Transport is currently considering plans to give local authorities the power to regulate road and street works by granting permits.

The figures were revealed as part of the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance Survey, which drew on budget data from 65 per cent of councils in England and Wales.

For the first time, the survey counted how often roads were dug up for the installation or replacement of ducting and cabling for services such as water, gas and electricity.

It showed that there were an average of 12,500 holes dug in each authority's roads every year - which equates to one for every 200 yards of highway under their control.

Jim Crick, chairman of the Asphalt Industry Alliance which conducted the survey,

said unnecessary digging shortened the life of the road, which made delays even worse.

He said research indicated that deep trench excavation could reduce the life of a road by as much as 30 per cent.

Mr Crick said: "Roads are our biggest single asset they are under permanent assault.

"Our road network is already crumbling and the damage caused by this type of work is storing up problems for the future that need to be accounted for.

"Premature resurfacing or reconstruction of the carriageway is an unnecessary expense."

Previous surveys have shown that councils suffer a £1 billion shortfall in

funding for road improvements and work backlogs of up to 11 years.

Local authorities are responsible for 95 per cent of Britain's roads.

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now