Water companies to be fined for leaving a 'plague of potholes' on roads

Department for Transport to issue fines amid crackdown on utility firms and broadband providers

Water companies and broadband providers will be slapped with hundreds of thousands of pounds in penalties for botched works that leave potholes or poor quality roads under a crackdown by Grant Shapps.

The Transport Secretary is targeting utility companies with the rollout of a new inspections unit to address “the plague of potholes” on the country’s roads.

Experts warned that potholes left behind can also be “killers” for cyclists.

Firms that dig up the road to fix broken drains or install fibre broadband fail to return it to a minimum standard on nearly one in 10 occasions, the Department for Transport said.

Officials refused to disclose the worst offenders claiming it was “commercially sensitive information”. Neither has the Government plans to name and shame those companies that are fined.

But the Government did say that one company had failed inspections after the roadworks were completed 63pc of the time. 

Currently highways authorities check less than a third of roads after they have been dug up. New rules will mean up to 100pc of works will need to be inspected. This means a national operator with 20,000 could be forced to pay up to £1m in penalties.

Nicholas Lyes head of roads policy at the RAC welcomed Mr Shapps’ plans “to force utilities companies to raise their game”.

He said: “While roadworks are frustrating at the best of times, it’s even worse when utility companies leave roads in a sub-standard state when the temporary traffic lights are finally removed.

“Poorly carried out reinstatement work very often leads to road surfaces breaking down, unnecessarily causing potholes much to the annoyance of drivers.”

Edmund King, AA president, said: "The state of the roads is drivers and riders biggest concern. The perilous potholes cause expensive damage to tyres, wheels and suspension of vehicles, but can be killers for those on two wheels.”

Mr Shapps said: “The plague of potholes is the menace of our roads. That’s why I’m ensuring companies who create them and leave roads in a poor state can be held to account more easily – protecting drivers from unfair repair costs.”

Ministers say that the change in laws could prevent thousands of potholes being left behind by utility companies nationwide, and will ensure more roads are resurfaced to a high standard.

Most drivers do not realise that they are often entitled to reclaim the cost of damage tyres and suspension are damaged by poor quality road surfaces. And those that do have reported large amounts of red tape and long waits to receive compensation from local councils or Highways England.

Utility companies will also be required to provide local authorities and the Department for Transport with more accurate information - such as times when work starts and finishes - on live road works that will be shared with sat navs, allowing drivers to plan their journeys accordingly.