ROAD repairs by utility companies have shown a massive improvement over the past two years, following the publication of recommendations by Devon County Council.

A number of measures were put forward by the Council’s Place Scrutiny Committee Task Group in March 2012 to improve the quality of road repairs, which have to comply with a certain quality standard.

The Task Group’s report highlighted that utility companies responded positively to its original recommendations, including the training and improved supervision of the work force, which had led to a better standard of work.

Previously, around 69% of reinstatement by utility companies complied with required standards. However, they have now risen to an all-time high average of 89.5% average during the first and second quarters in 2013, with one utility company being 100 percent compliant in the second phase of last year’s testing programme.

Councillor Andrew Moulding, Chairman of the Place Scrutiny Committee and Chair of the Task Group, said: “Poor quality road repairs are less durable than those which are up to standard, which then requires premature maintenance. Not only does sub-standard workmanship pose a danger to highway users but it also costs more to put it right and causes more disruption.

“The utility companies, including BT Openreach, South West Water, Virgin Media, Wales and West and Western Power Distribution, have been incredibly committed to the process and through partnership working with Devon County Council, the use of suitable materials and the better training and supervision of each member of their work force, they have achieved a better quality process and improved results.”

Councillor Gordon Hook, Vice Chairman of the Place Scrutiny Committee, said: “Any significant improvements are to be warmly welcomed. It is encouraging that joint working between the utility companies and County has produced a better standard of repair but there is still room for further improvement, as my old school reports used to say!"

The committee praised the commitment demonstrated by the utility companies. Partnership working, the use of suitable materials and better training and supervision were all contributing factors to achieving improved results. The report also stated the importance of effective communication with the public about any planned works, and compliance would continue to be monitored. The utility companies have worked together to produce a training DVD which has been used to train each member of their workforces and now forms part of induction training for new employees. It will also be adopted across all highway authorities throughout England.

The utility companies are planning to roll out the up-to-date practices used in Devon to all parts of their networks. The national Highway Authorities Utilities Committee (UK) Good Practice Guide to “Implementing a Structured Coring Programme” has been established with a leading involvement from Devon County Council officers and is increasingly recognised.

The Place Scrutiny Committee agreed to make Devon County Council’s Cabinet aware of the significant improvement of reinstatements by utility companies through partnership working.