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JAG(UK) Meeting with DfT on 17th June 2015

Jerry McConkey and David Capon met with Tony Boucher and Barbara King on 17th June at DfT to discuss a number of subjects.

1. HAUC(UK) - Role, value and new constitution. Jerry and David briefly touched on the changes to HAUC and centred on the view that HAUC(UK) is the strategic body, which DfT were comfortable with and extolled the view that the community would be listened better as HAUC(UK) rather than NJUG and JAG(UK) respectively.

2. Changes to JAG(UK) - Strategic drive, Structural changes. Jerry and David spoke about the plans to restructure JAG(UK) to fit in with the need to be more strategic and introduce better succession planning. In the course of the discussions the idea of meeting the new minister was discussed and the attached letter was handed to DfT. DfT noted that NJUG had written already but felt it would be beneficial for JAG(UK) and NJUG to meet together as HAUC(UK). This was seen as a good way forward. Jerry and David also took the opportunity to mention how the working within the GeoPlace family had made a major difference to how JAG(UK) is perceived now within the community and there has been positive benefits for all concerned.

3. DfT priorities - Links HAUC(UK), HAUC England and other departments. DfT confirmed that the Secretary of State is pushing for 7 day working; his view is that works should not be idle at weekends. JAG(UK)'s view is that idle works at any time is the issue; not just weekends. DfT are looking at options but they felt it was not easy to change, particularly where there are noticing schemes and permits to deal with. Barbara asked whether a pseudo TS type designation on strategic streets could be set up and where no idle works would be permitted on that network. Jerry put forward a valid point that it's more likely to be a problem where temporary signals are in place and should the focus not be on that, for example, where temporary traffic control (ie portable signals) was in place there should be no idle days: DfT thought this concept was a good idea. Barbara asked if data could be extracted on how many works were undertaken using temporary signals. Note: if anyone can provide this data, this would be a great help. Jerry and David also took the opportunity to note that there are areas of NRSWA which are now not fit for purpose, such as, Section 50 licences, Section 58 designations etc. This will be a continued issue for JAG(UK) members as there is no likelihood for any new street works related legislation in the life of this parliament but JAG(UK) feels that there is need to move forward. A strategy group discussion would be needed around this area.

4. Systems – Review outcomes, Technical Specification, and Central Portal. A review of the systems was discussed and DfT were very supportive of this initiative and were really interested in the outcomes from the recent systems survey. Jerry and David spoke about the need to move as an industry looking at the five main areas listed below. There was further discussion about the fact that Systems are not uniform in their delivery and this means the users are not as efficient as they could be; that EToN 6 is not being fully utilised, for a variety of reasons, but, nonetheless, the perceived benefits are far from being gained and the industry is therefore a wasting valuable resource; and that The Technical Specification does not support the ever changing needs of the industry with the developers appearing to control the industry and the inefficiencies that this creates is to the detriment of all and especially the public. Another problem is the annual calculation of sample inspections from inspection units; costs are estimated at around £20 Million per year for the industry to agree targets.

Main areas where problems are being experienced

  • Internal ICT
  • Process and Training
  • EToN 6 Compliance
  • EToN Tech Spec Review
  • System Specific

DfT offered to send a letter round to the industry to remind them of the gains that could be made by utilising ETON 6 better way and give examples where cooperation between utilities and authorities have improved as a result of using EToN 6 and a reminder to all HAs to submit performance scorecard data. Again, this was agreed as a positive step and JAG(UK) will ask HAs for any good examples that can be used. (Note – Any HA with good examples can they please contact David Capon.)

DfT are also supportive of the central portal concept and can see the benefits this would produce. A meeting about this between JAG(UK) , GeoPlace and DfT is set for 6th July and this will be discussed further then.

5. Permits - New changes. There are a number of points that David had emailed DfT on 17 June and these were centred on the current guidance document. Jerry and David reiterated that JAG(UK) is fully behind the concept of the statutory guidance but it seems to JAG(UK) that the draft is covering too many items and has slightly lost its impact. Secondly, there are points in the guidance which the permit task group has not discussed and it seems that this again will detract from the document's overall aim. Issues, such as immediate works, the part dealing with gas escapes etc. appear to JAG(UK) members that these will cause a lot more problems than they will solve and that there could be better ways to achieve the aims of the guidance. These example are not really much of a problem compared with items such as the gap in the legislation around cancellations. Jerry and David put forward JAG(UK)'s concerns that the document will force all permit authorities to change their scheme, which was thought was not the case and certainly not the view given out at the recent briefing session which DfT attended. The immediate works part especially is not covered in any current scheme and this would apear does not allow for a proper debate around the issues; does not allow authorities the proper democratic time to deliver new orders; and probably leaves them having to consult and change soon after the 1st October deadline: hardly the best use of resources. From JAG(UK)'s perspective, would it not be possible just to either defer compliance until January 1st 2016 so the industry can consider more the changes DfT are trying to make? This would deliver better guidance and reduce the risk of a political embarrassment as authorities presently may not meet the current 1st October deadline. HAs democratic processes need reports based on facts and as yet there are none in terms of potential scheme changes, they were almost there but there is a fear this guidance, as it stands, changes that. Jerry and David asked that DfT may want to consider changing the document to just a shorter version delivering words on the changes to the regulations etc and then let HAUC(UK) deliver better practical guidance to its members. DfT again thought this concept a good idea. Also Jerry and David noted that DfT may want to consider just having the national conditions applying as from October 1st and then better guidance provided in January 2016, again DfT thought this was a positive way forward. Jerry and David spoke about JAG(UK) being fully committed to helping authorities deliver the changes but at the moment the timeframe and this guidance proposal would make that difficult. DfT agreed to take these views back and discuss the need to think again on some of the issues.

6. Inspections - Need for change. Jerry and David spoke about the proposed inspections changes and the need to be able to deliver better procedures for the industry. DfT were fully supportive of the need for change and were just viewing the mechanics of how to achieve that. Unfortunately, due to time constrains, discussions on this were slightly curtailed.

Finally, Barbara mentioned issues over TTROs and the cost of these. No doubt a utility has lobbied DfT and more detail on this is awaited.

Notes by David Capon 17.6.15

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