County Councillor Stephen Reid and Maria Miller MP are moving the debate about the damaged Brighton Hill Roundabout phone and internet cables onto the next stage. They want to know
- who can be held responsible for this specific instance?
- will compensation be payable?
And on the broader issues:
- do utility companies have an obligation to supply accurate mapping information and what penalties attach if they don't?
- do Council contracts include clauses for penalties to be payable if utility companies supply inaccurate mapping information?
- do Council contracts include penalty clauses if contractors make mistakes that cause the sort of problems that are still being experienced in Basingstoke?
Writing to Maria Miller, Stephen said: "As you know, the phone and internet outages impacted not just homes but also business and NHS outlets. The hospital trust declared an emergency. and for many people, services are not yet reinstated.
"The damage seems to centre round two issues: that the maps supplied to the contractors did not show the cables in their true positions, and that the ground-penetrating radar appears not to have seen them. It is the first of these that I think might interest Parliament.
"My question is: do penalties attach when utilities supply inaccurate information about the positions of their assets? The fibre-optic cables can only have been laid relatively recently, and it would seem inexcusable if their positions were not accurately known. If there is no obligation on the utilities to supply accurate data, and no penalties are payable when they fail, I suggest that there should be. In the absence of such a requirement, this sort of event could happen repeatedly with no organisation being held accountable."
Maria Miller has responded:
"I share your concern about the significant impact this incident caused, and, whilst the local NHS GP and Hospital services successfully invoked their emergency procedures, the disruption also affected local residents, businesses and those who work from home.
"I agree that more broadly utility companies need to retain an accurate catalogue of the location of their assets including pipes and cables. Unfortunately the problem experienced doing the road works at Brighton Hill roundabout is not an isolated incident. Whilst it might be understandable that in the past geographically accurate records were difficult to compile, as you point out, these fibre-optic cables can only have been laid relatively recently."
The current situation:
Stephen reports: "I am in contact with the County officers to monitor the latest position. It looks as if the fibre optic connections are almost fully restored as of Monday evening, 13th June. However, the copper-based services are likely to take the rest of this week to complete, with residents getting their services back as their particular copper cables are repaired. I recommend that residents who have had their services disrupted contact their service providers to see if compensation is payable under the terms of their contracts."