BT fined £50k by Scottish road works commissioner

BT's Openreach branch made a series of 'serious failures'. Picture: AFP
BT's Openreach branch made a series of 'serious failures'. Picture: AFP
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BT HAS received the maximum fine of £50,000 from Scotland’s roadworks commissioner for endangering the public with work carried out in the Highlands – the first penalty of its kind ever imposed.

Engineers left unmanned, gaping holes in pavements without barriers or signs on 
numerous occasions. Works 
also proceeded with an excavator operating on a busy footpath, again with no signs or barriers, and with no safe route for pedestrians.

Some of the streetworks also caused buses and cars to mount pavements in an effort to pass.

These were among a series of “serious failures” committed by the communication giant’s Openreach engineering division, and identified by the road works commissioner, Elspeth King.

BT said new working practices, in particular involving the hiring of sub-contractors, had been put in place to prevent a repetition of the failings.

Mrs King said the offences – all of which occurred in the north, and mainly in Inverness and its suburbs – included many instances of unsafe working practices and concerns about endangering the public.

The offences also included working without valid notification and operatives not having the correct qualifications.

The commissioner has powers to issue penalties up to £50,000 where a utility company fails to comply with its duties as a statutory body and on this occasion imposed such a fine, the first time on a charge of endangering the public.

Mrs King said: “I warned BT about the numerous failures in compliance in Highland and expected an immediate improvement in performance, but this did not occur.

“As the offences were of a 
serious nature, many involving unsafe working, I have decided to impose the maximum penalty of £50,000. I hope that this action sends out a clear message to all organisations carrying out roadworks in Scotland that poor performance will be identified and penalised accordingly.”

She added: “I am pleased to note that BT has now responded to the failures, confirming to me that it is fully committed to compliance in the future, and that it has introduced extensive new procedures to ensure this.”

A BT Openreach spokesman said: “We accept that these works could, and should, have been carried out to a higher standard and we welcome the commissioner’s recognition that we have taken action to respond to these issues.

“We have introduced extensive new procedures to ensure that any streetworks carried out by BT and its contractors meet or exceed expected standards in the future.”

Mrs King took up the post of Scottish Road Works Commissioner in January 2013. She is the second commissioner following the retirement of John Gooday, in December 2012.