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Utility companies question Department for Transport’s Regulatory Impact Assessment

The National Joint Utility Group (NJUG) - the UK’s trade association representing utilities involved in street works – cannot see the benefits of new Department for Transport (DfT) permit proposals.

The proposals are included in the draft Traffic Management (Permit Schemes) Regulations which were laid before Parliament on the 19th July 2007.

Under the proposals, Local Authorities can introduce a new permit scheme requiring both highways authorities and utilities to apply for permission to undertake road and street works. Such works will be subject to certain conditions.

NJUG believes that the DfT’s Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) report on the draft regulations, also published on Thursday, did not justify any further benefits than those already arising from the revamp of the existing Noticing system.

Richard Wakelen, Chief Executive of NJUG said, “The Street Works (Registers, Notices, Directions and Designations) Regulations which come into force on the 1st April 2008, will not be allowed sufficient time to demonstrate reductions in disruption. The success of these measures should be evaluated before these further regulations are introduced.”

NJUG also believes the RIA did not meet the standards recommended by the Better Regulation Commission and signed on to by Government to sufficiently quantify the costs and benefits of the proposed Regulations. This was recognised by the National Audit Office 2006 Report into Government’s Evaluation of Regulatory Impact Assessments. The RIA does not recognise the costs the new scheme will impose on utility companies and their customers. It also fails to acknowledge the wider benefits essential utility services, and the necessary street works that deliver such services, bring to the UK economy.

Richard Wakelen, Chief Executive of NJUG said, “A robust and accurate regulatory impact assessment is essential to properly inform legislators when deciding whether regulation is the right solution for the country. Whilst we have supported the Department by providing accurate information to form the base data on which benefits and costs should be calculated, we are disappointed that the permits scheme RIA has underestimated the number of works each year by around 60 per cent. It also made a number of assumptions leading to inaccurate analysis of costs and benefits. We are therefore very concerned that parliamentarians and Local Authorities will not be able to make the best decision for the country based on the information they have received.”

Effective Co-ordination will Reduce Disruption

NJUG actively supports the DfT’s objectives of reducing congestion and understands the Department’s hope that the new permit scheme will reduce disruption by enabling Local Authorities to proactively co-ordinate road and street works, and other such activities. Indeed many member companies are already working together and with local authorities to minimise disruption through advance planning and co-ordination of works in the street.

NJUG recognises three positive outcomes from the DfT’s published report.

Mr Wakelen said, “We’re pleased to see a requirement for transparency by Local Authorities. It is fair and right that Local Authorities must demonstrate the benefits of each proposed scheme, how they will measure costs and benefits, and therefore how the permit fee is calculated.”

“It’s also good that the same permit scheme regulations must apply equally to Highway Authorities’ works for road improvement purposes, such as road resurfacing, as well as utility companies’ essential works to ensure the delivery of safe, secure and reliable water, energy and communications services on which we all rely.”

“We believe that if permits are to be effective they should be limited to major planned works in the busiest streets where congestion is greatest. Then the benefits of both improved works and planning will be greater. By far, the greatest reduction in disruption will be by utilities supporting Local Authorities in their Network Management Duty to plan and co-ordinate works effectively.”

Mr Wakelen also highlighted issues NJUG would like to see addressed in the parliamentary debate on the draft Regulations.

Mr Wakelen said, “NJUG members remain keen to work further with Local Authorities to co-ordinate planned works, but would like to seek assurances that they are unable to impose unnecessary or onerous conditions upon utilities companies. Any such conditions will increase costs to utility companies – hence increasing costs to our customers – and impact on our ability to deliver the major investment programmes necessary to ensure we can all be confident that when we turn on the lights, hob, tap, TV or PC we all get the services we need.”

“Moreover, we are yet to understand how the Government will deliver its promise of a ‘level playing field’ with respect to highway and utility works.”

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Notes To Editors :

For further editorial information visit http://www.njug.org.uk/category/6/pageid/14/ . To arrange an interview please email pressoffice@njug.org.uk or telephone 020 7609 1900.

About NJUG

The National Joint Utility Group (NJUG) is the UK’s only industry association representing utilities on street works issues. Our members include the Energy Networks Association (representing electricity and gas companies), Water UK (representing water companies), National Grid, BT, Cable and Wireless, Virgin Media and THUS plc. - in all some 41 utility companies, as well as five major contractor companies responsible for actual delivery of works in the street joining NJUG as Associate Members.

NJUG is also the utility arm of the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee representing street and road works in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales known as HAUC (UK). NJUG’s focus is on promoting best practice, safety, quality and co-ordination of works as well as representing utilities in discussions with Government and other stakeholders on street work issues. We have recently launched our Vision for Street Works a copy of which can be found at www.njug.org.uk and our members are working hard to turn our Vision into a reality.

Street works are essential activities carried out by electricity, water, gas and communications utilities to maintain, enhance, extend, renew and repair their networks to continue to supply reliable services to customers be they individual households or businesses delivering benefits to the UK economy.

For further information visit www.njug.org.uk

About the Traffic Management (Permit Schemes) Regulations

The draft Management (Permit Schemes) Regulations, were laid before Parliament on 19th July 2007. They intend to establish the power for local authorities to introduce a new permit scheme to regulate road and street works. The regulations are subject to Affirmative Resolution which require there to be debates in both Houses of Parliament. It is a requirement for there to be at least 90 days between the laying of the regulations and the subsequent parliamentary debates to legitimise them, which are therefore expected in Autumn. The Traffic Management (Permit Schemes) Regulations - Consultation Report can be accessed at http://www.dft.gov.uk/consultations/closed/keepingtrafficmov...

The Street Works (Registers, Notices, Directions and Designations) Regulations

These regulations can be found at http://www.opsi.gov.uk/si/si2007/20071951.htm

About the National Audit Office Recommendations

The National Audit Offices Recommendations for RIAs can be found in the Evaluation of Regulatory Impact Assessments 2005-06 report.

This report can be found at: http://www.nao.org.uk/publications/nao_reports/05-06/0506130...

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