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Last edited 17 Jan 2022
The term 'roadworks' describes work performed in the construction, maintenance and repair of certain types of roads. Roadworks are primarily governed by two Acts of Parliament – the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA) and the Traffic Management Act 2004 (TMA).
Code of Practice for the Co-ordination of Street Works and Works for Road Purposes and Related Matters HAUC (England) Edition issued by HAUC (England) in September 2020, states: ‘Road works are different from street works. They are works carried out to repair or improve the highway including footways, pavements and street lighting. Also known as works for road purposes which is defined in S86(2) of NRSWA.’
 Defining roadworks
There are several descriptions of roadwork (or road work) or highway work. Part 1, Section B of the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (HGCRA, also known as the Construction Act) includes roadworks in its definition of construction operations. Under HGCRA this activity is mentioned as 'Construction, alteration, repair, maintenance, extension, demolition or dismantling of any works forming, or to form, part of the land, including (without prejudice to the foregoing) roadworks'.
Under the NRSWA, roadworks - or 'works for road purposes' (WRP) are generally defined as being carried out by highway authorities to improve, repair, maintain or replace highways, which under highways law includes the footway or pavement. They are further defined in relation to certain activities, including:
- Works for the maintenance of the highway.
- Any works under powers conferred by the Highway improvement works of the Highways Act 1980 (Part V HA1980).
- Erection, maintenance, alteration or removal of traffic signs on or near the highway.
- Construction of a crossing for vehicles across a footway or grass verge or the strengthening or adaptation of a footway for use as a crossing for vehicles.
- Replacement or maintenance of street lighting, even if carried out on behalf of the council by an electricity distribution company.
NB Code of Practice for the Co-ordination of Street Works and Works for Road Purposes and Related Matters HAUC(England) Edition issued by HAUC (England) in September 2020, defines substantial road works as: ‘Works for road purposes which comprise a reconstruction, widening, alteration in the level, resurfacing or specialist non-skid surface dressing of the part of the highway concerned.’
Road works are different from street works, which are necessary to provide and maintain utility and transport services. Street works are not carried out by highway authorities. Instead, they are are carried out by statutory undertakers, including:
Like the term street works, diversionary works is associated with projects that involve utilities. Diversionary works are sometimes required to accommodate highway improvement schemes. They may be needed when it becomes necessary to reroute utility services.
The Safety at Street Works and Road Works: A Code of Practice provides guidance for utility companies and highway authorities as well as operatives, supervisors, managers, planners and designers who are responsible for making sure that all roadworks and street works are safe for both operatives and the public. It covers subjects such as signing, lighting and guarding of both roadworks and street works.
This Code of Practice applies to all highways and roads, other than motorways and dual carriageways with a speed limit of 50 mph or more. It applies to works carried out by - or on behalf of - both highway authorities and statutory undertakers. It does not cover skips and scaffolding placed in the highway.
According to the Highway Code, roadworks may contain features that require extra care, including:
Certain types of equipment, such as portable traffic signal control devices, may be used to control access associated with roadworks, particularly in instances where temporary diversions become necessary. The Temporary Traffic Management Handbook from Transport for London mentions that the equipment must comply with Traffic Open Products and Specifications (TOPAS).
 Roadworks Inspectors
The code of practice sets out the agreed regime for the inspection and the measures to be taken where it is discovered that the works do not meet the required standard. Inadequacy classifications fall into two categories:
- Higher risk: The site needs rectification without delay and within two hours of notification of the failing.
- Lower risk: The site requires making good within four hours of notification of the failing.
- Cutting road congestion.
- Construction operations definition.
- Highways England.
- Highways in England and Wales.
- Maintainable highway.
- Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works.
- Road construction.
- Street works.
- Types of road and street.
- Department for Transport, New Roads and Street Works Act 1991, Code of Practice for Inspections.
- Gov.uk, Safety at Street Works and Road Works A Code of Practice.
- Leglislation.gov.uk, Highways Act 1980.
- Legislation.gov.uk, New Roads and Street Works Act 1991.
- Legislation.gov.uk, Traffic Management Act 2004.
- Traffic Open Products and Specifications.
- Transport for London, The Temporary Traffic Management Handbook from Transport for London.
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