Role of statutory undertakers
Statutory undertakers are companies legally allowed to undertake work in or under the highway network. This usually means those responsible for electric, gas, telecommunications and water supplies.
With permission from the highways authority, owners of utility infrastructure or their appointed contractors are allowed to undertake work on their own services. For roads and footpaths in Cornwall the highways authority is Cornwall Council. Highways England is the authority in the case of the A38 and the A30.
All other contractors have to apply for permission from the utility company to do any sort of work, no matter how minor, that could affect their service.
We regularly check with utility companies when we plan our works to see if they have any works planned in the same location. This allows us to coordinate works and minimise disruption. This is carried out successfully on large numbers of schemes across the county.
However, it isn’t always possible, especially when works are of an emergency nature.
Impact when services are found in the wrong place
To establish where services are, contractors follow standards set out in National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) guidelines. Where services have been located in different areas or depths from these guidelines, these should be officially logged. Such records are used as a reference when we are designing schemes and carrying out our work.
However, there are occasions when we are working on site that utilities not shown on these records are discovered, or are found in different areas or depths. Where this happens, we have no option but to stop work in that area, as it could have an effect on these services. The utility service is then informed about what we have found.
Such discoveries can sometimes require a change to the designs. On other occasions, it may mean moving the services or adding protection. However, nothing further can happen without the permission of the utility company, who will usually insist that any work is carried out by their preferred contractor.
This can result in delays while the contractor finds the time to take on the work. This is usually the reason we can appear to ‘dig a hole then leave it for ages’. Wherever possible we relocate teams to other schemes or areas during any delays.
• Gas Act 1986 as amended by the Gas Act 1995 (schedule 3)
• Electricity Act 1989 (schedule 4)
• Water Resources Act 1991 (section 159)
• Telecommunications Act 1984 as amended by schedule 3 of the Communications Act 2003