TWO utility firms have been hit with hefty fines after admitting roadworks offences.

They were hit with a combined total of £50,000 in fines after being prosecuted by Somerset County Council at Taunton Magistrates' Courts.

Verizon UK Ltd admitted one offence in Taunton Road, Bridgwater, under section 56 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 for failing to comply with a direction on timing issued by the county council.

The case related to unauthorised roadworks on April 25 last year that led to substantial disruption on Taunton Road – described by magistrates as unacceptable both to the people of Bridgwater and the local economy.

Verizon was fined £30,000 and ordered to pay £1,841 in costs and a victim surcharge of £170.

Western Power Distribution pleaded guilty to one offence under S65 of NRSWA 1991 for failing to comply with the safety requirements of the Code of Practice.

It was in connection with work in Longforward Lane, Kingstone, Ilminster on May 8 last year.

Magistrates said the breach posed a real risk to the safety of the public and site operatives.

WDP was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £1,730 in costs and a victim surcharge of £170.

Cllr John Woodman, Somerset County Council cabinet member for highways, said: "If you want to work on our highways, you have to do it in the right way.

"These were both serious offences – one which caused considerable, unnecessary disruption on an exceptionally busy road, while the other directly put people’s safety at risk.

"I’m pleased to see significant fines handed out and hope this sends a strong message that we will take action when it is in the public interest to do so."