UTILITIES FIRMS digging up roads will be forced to pay up to £650 a day in 'lane rental' charges under pilot schemes to be launched by the London Borough of Camden and Middlesbrough Borough Council on Monday.
In Camden, utilities firms will be charged £500 a day for standard streetworks and £300 a day for emergency work on 50km of main traffic arteries. £200 a day will be charged for standard works on other roads.
There will be no charge for streetworks taking less than three days, or for minor works, but firms will be charged £650 a day for all remedial work required.
Lane rental charges will force utilities firms to plan streetworks better and share possessions, reducing time spent on site, claimed Camden Council highways management team leader Yestin Faraday.
Local authorities have been able to charge utilities for overrunning agreed streetworks timescales under Section 74 of the New Roads and Streetworks Act.
However, few authorities have exercised their powers because the existing system has been so difficult to administrate, Faraday said.
He added that the new lane rental system, enabling authorities to charge utilities from day one, will be far simpler to implement.
The Camden and Middlesbrough schemes will run for two years and will be closely monitored by the Department of Transport, Local Government & the Regions. They could pave the way for schemes across the UK.
Industry body, the National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG), claimed that lane rental schemes will cost its members £1.2bn a year.