How we deal with damaged or missing manhole covers

When a manhole cover becomes loose, sunken or rocking, this can cause a safety issue or a general nuisance due to the noise it makes.

Sometimes it is not an easy or simple fix that we (Surrey County Council) are responsible for making, but we recognise how important it is for Surrey's road users that everything possible is done to resolve the problem.

This page explains how we handle reports about these problems, and explains some of the legal and logistical complexities around fixing manhole covers.

How we deal with your report

Once we receive your report:

  • We will carry out an inspection using the details you have given. The Inspector will look at the surface of the cover, but won't have the tools or the safety precautions to look inside the cover.
    • If the cover belongs to Surrey County Council (SCC), and it meets our criteria for repair, we will repair the problem within either 5 or 28 days depending on the severity of the problem
    • If we find that the cover belongs to a utility company, we will report the problem directly to them. They are responsible for any repairs
    • If we cannot identify the owner straight away, we will assess the severity of the problem and arrange for a more specialist team to come back within either 5 to 28 days
  • Where we have been unable to initially identify the owner and have to send a specialist team back, they will;
    • Lift the cover and look inside to establish the owner
    • If the cover belongs to Surrey County Council (SCC), we will repair the problem straight away
    • If the cover belongs to a utility company, we will report the problem directly to them. If it is causing immediate danger or noise, we will also make a temporary repair where possible, however the owner is legally responsible for making the permanent repair
  • If we carry out a temporary repair for a cover owned by a utility company, we can take no further action due to legislation. Please contact the utility company with any other enquiries, including chasing up the permanent repair.

Legislation regarding utility owned manhole covers

Legislation limits the action we can take to repair utility company owned equipment. Manhole covers are the most common type of utility owned equipment which we get asked to inspect and repair.

Our role is to investigate reports and notify the correct utility company as soon as possible, providing them with as much evidence as we can. If necessary, we can make a temporary repair (where possible) but the owner is responsible for permanent repairs.

Unless the manhole cover is causing a clear danger to safety, utility companies do not have to repair it within a set timescale. Noisy covers are an example of this.

Legislation about utility company owned equipment (manhole covers) can be found in Section 81 of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991.

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