Summary coordination undergr R-reeks 5

Improving the co-ordination of work carried out in the underground public space

(RIONED-reeks nr. 5) 

In recent years it has become more and more important to co-ordinate work carried out in the underground public space. People are increasingly frightened by the image of an impenetrable tangle of cables and pipes belonging to dozens of organisations all doing their own thing, along with all the attendant dangers that could affect the correct and safe functioning of public utilities above and below ground. Municipalities often feel that they have lost control over what is happening under the ground. This guide will help to make the use of the underground public space manageable again.

The municipality has a crucial job in this respect. As the manager of (above-ground) public spaces, the municipality can and must also take on the running of the underground public space. In order to carry out this role a number of conditions do, however, need to be met. At this time many municipalities are experiencing difficulties – justifiable or not – with the active organisation of their underground space. For this reason municipalities are keeping out of the  underground public space, or restricting themselves to the prevention of undesirable activities. The barriers standing in the way of an active management role are strategic (what do we want to do under the ground?), practical (how can we organise things?) and legal (which legal instruments can we apply?).

It is therefore a matter of ensuring clarity and direction for the policy process, work processes and the legal apparatus. This guide develops a structure to help realise these objectives. The chapters on these three aspects can be read separately, while at the same time the underlying connections between them are also indicated.

The policy process outlines in a sequence the phases required to define the municipality’s management role, to implement it, and subsequently to structurally maintain it. After defining the objectives and having made a direct comparison between the existing and desired situations, attention is given to putting in place the necessary legal apparatus and organisation in the municipality. Communication, both with the concerned parties as well as with the public, and the creation of supporting structures within management and administration also form parts of this process.  Evaluation and monitoring constitute the final part of the policy process.

Municipalities need to choose the legal apparatus that suits their management role best for themselves. Basically, there are two possibilities. The first option is to use a single new legal instrument, namely a ‘bye-law on underground public spaces’. Within this framework all matters are, in principle, regulated for all the parties. The second possibility takes as its starting point the adjustment of existing regulations. The legal apparatus is supported by financial regulations.  Furthermore, technical agreements about lines and profiles are also important.

Work processes describes the day-to-day interactions between municipalities and cable and piping managers, as well as the internal municipal organisation. A distinction is made between (long-term) programmes and projects. In the case of projects there is again a difference in working methods between large and small-scale works, and single and combined activities.