Thames Water has been fined thousands of pounds for causing traffic chaos in west London by setting up illegal roadworks.
The company coned off areas but didn’t actually carry out any work, leaving unmanned ‘phantom’ sites that disrupted traffic.
The utility company even placed a series of unnecessary temporary traffic lights and coned off parking spaces without any permission from the local council or giving advanced warning.
On three separate occasions in less than two weeks last year the firm caused huge traffic jams by closing sections of roads around Wandsworth in south west London without authorisation or any workers present.
The first was in Putney Bridge Road on November 10 when traffic signals, signs and barriers closed one lane and caused tailbacks to cars and buses in both directions.
Thames Water coned off lanes and temporary traffic lights on roads across Wandsworth but didn’t actually carry out any work, leaving unmanned ‘phantom’ sites to cause huge tailbacks and delays. Pictured: Putney Bridge Road, London
No Thames Water operatives or contractors were at the site and no actual work was being carried out.
Investigations later revealed the utility company only applied for a street works permit later that day, Wandsworth Council said.
The next disruption was on Putney Hill a week later when the company coned off a section of the northbound carriageway without approval or notification and without any of its workers at the scene.
And a week later on November 25, they did the same in Buckhold Road, using temporary traffic lights and cones to block off half the road causing travel disruption to local traffic and buses.
These restrictions were also put in place without getting the necessary permits or with any contractors working at the site.
Investigations later revealed the utility company only applied for a street works permit later that day, Wandsworth Council said
Wandsworth Council took Thames Water to court and the firm was ordered to pay more than £8,000 by magistrates.
In two separate court hearings the company was ordered to pay a total of £8,254 in fines and costs after it admitted three breaches of The Traffic Management Permit Scheme (England) Regulations 2007 by failing to obtain a valid permit to carry out works on the Public Highway.
Two cases were heard together in which Thames Water pleaded guilty and a fine of £1,600 and £952 costs was imposed for each offence together with a victim’s surcharge of £190 – giving a total of £5,294.
A third case was heard on April 6, when the company pleaded guilty and the court imposed a fine of £1,500 with costs of £1,040.
The victim surcharge was applied and was set at £150, making the total to pay for that offence £2,690.
Wandsworth Council took Thames Water to court and the firm was ordered to pay a total of £8,254 in fines and costs after it admitted three breaches. Pictured: Putney Hill
Cllr John Locker, the authority’s transport spokesman, slammed Thames Water driving a ‘coach and horses’ through the rules over roadworks.
He said: ‘Thames Water displayed a wholly cavalier approach to the rules around roadworks and road closures.
‘There is a system in place to ensure that roadworks are properly co-ordinated so as to minimise inconvenience to the travelling public and to coin a phrase, Thames Water drove a coach and horses through these procedures.
‘To make matters worse the roadworks were set up long before any actual works were to be carried out, so the public were inconvenienced for longer than was necessary, which frankly adds insult to injury.
‘We hope the legal action we have taken here acts as a timely reminder to them of the importance of sticking to these procedures and keeping disruption to road users to the absolute minimum.’
Last month Thames Water was also fined £4 million after raw sewage including thousands of bags of toilet paper escaped from sewers and flooded a recreation ground in New Malden, south west London.
The utility company was found to have ignored warning alarms when pumps at a treatment works broke down during Storm Imogen in 2016.
A Thames Water spokesperson said: ‘We have a good record of streetworks activities in Wandsworth, having completed more than 4,000 jobs in 2020.
‘But we accept mistakes were made in a very small number of cases.
‘We’ve put measures in place to reduce the risk of this happening again, and will continue to work constructively with Wandsworth Borough Council to keep disruption to a minimum during essential work on our sewer and water networks.’