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Friday, 31 October 2014

Utility firms fined by Carlisle court for safety breaches on roads

Three utility companies have been fined thousands of pounds for failing to meet basic safety requirements on roads in Carlisle, Penrith and Brampton.

British Telecom PLC (BT), Northern Gas Networks Ltd (NGN) and Electricity North West (ENW) admitted breaching street work safety requirements.

Carlisle Magistrates’ Court heard that contractors employed by the companies blocked walkways, failed to ensure that the works were adequately sign-posted and didn’t consider the needs of disabled people.

On Carlisle Road in Brampton a “vulnerable man on a mobility scooter” had been forced into the roadway because of the works carried out by ENW, it emerged.

BT was fined £4,500, ENW £7,000 and NGN £2,000. In addition they all had to pay substantial court costs.

The court heard that the offences were spotted by county council inspectors.

BT and ENW were represented in court yesterday and admitted the offences.

NGN pleaded guilty by post to a breach in Mayburgh Avenue in Penrith on May 8.

In the letter, which was read to the court, NGN insisted that they took regulations “very seriously” and that this was an “exception”.

Tariq Khawam, prosecuting, said that a footway in Carlisle had been completely blocked by contractors working for BT on May 14 and there had been “no safe passage for pedestrians”.

But James Newman, defending BT, said the excavation on Newfield Road, Kingstown, had been protected by a barrier so that there had been “no danger to waifs and strays”.

He said that BT accepted that a safe pedestrian walkway had not been provided and that workmen failed to live up to the standards expected by the company.

But in mitigation he said that the company had put the breaches right as soon as they had been reported.

The company had also failed to meet standards at Rosebery Road in Stanwix, Carlisle.

Magistrates said they considered this the “more serious” of the two offences because it had forced people to walk on the main road and at a junction.

Meanwhile, Philip Tully, representing ENW, criticised the county council for “not progressing matters as quickly as they should have”.

He said that the offences should have been dealt with on October 24 when ENW was fined £1,500 for another breach.

But chairman of the bench Christine Egan said they should be fined for each of the offences individually.

Mr Tully accepted that the company had fallen short of safety standards but added that some of the barriers had been removed by a third party overnight.

He said added that contractors had been doing “emergency repairs” on power lines in Cotehill, near Carlisle and had been working as quickly as possible to restore electricity at the time of one of the breaches.

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