Concerns over when abandoned 'work in progress' schemes will be finished

Many 'work in progress' utilities schemes have been topped following restrictions imposed around coronavirus
Gary McDonald Business Editor

UTILITIES firms in the north forced to abandon 'work in progress' fear finances might not be immediately made available again to enable them to resume projects when normality returns after the covid crisis.

Dozens of pre-planned schemes which had already started, but were then deemed non-urgent, have been shut down in the last week.

In some cases miles of trenches were dug and temporary traffic measures put in place, only for contractors to return to hastily re-instate roads and footpaths.

No utility company was prepared to reveal how much it has cost them to mothball projects, some which have been years in the planning.

They say their priority has been to follow government health advice and make sure customers and their employees stay safe.

But privately one firm told the Irish News: “Who knows when we'll get staff back on the ground, and if the money will be there?

“Some of this programmed work has been in the planning for months, years in some cases, and questions must remain about when it can be scheduled in again, and if the money will be there.”

But NI Water, which has a piped network of 26,000 miles and more than 2,000 installations across Northern Ireland - and which at any time has between 130 and 170 capital works projects ongoing - said it has identified non-urgent work that can be rescheduled and has implemented safety processes for essential work that needs to continue.

Senior manager Gary Curran told the Irish News: “We would reassure customers that if they see staff and contractors out and about, they are there meet your clean and waste water needs.

“They are essential front line staff, all following necessary government health advice around social distancing, going to work so we can be safe at home.”

He added: “NI Water is continually reviewing the need to carry out works depending on the priority; in some cases work that has been halted might need to be started again, especially if it means water supply is affected.

“Around 95 per cent of our work has now ceased. But the majority of our contractors and suppliers remain available for essential or emergency response works, for example the repairs of burst water mains or leakage to reduce wasted water.”

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