Disruption caused by utility companies digging up the roads is to be tackled with local authority powers to charge them “lane rental” of up to £2,500 a day.
Transport Minister Norman Baker announced the scheme today and said the move would “incentivise” utility companies to carry out the work quickly, off-peak or at night. Roadwork related congestion costs the economy around £4bn a year.
The Department for Transport wants the schemes to be piloted in three authorities, one metropolitan area and two other areas, and is inviting local authorities to apply.
“It is incredibly frustrating to find vital roads being dug up in the middle of the rush hour or, even worse, traffic lanes closed when no one is even carrying out any work,” said Baker.
“While permit schemes are working well to reduce disruption from roadworks in areas where they have been sanctioned we think it sensible to try out a further option.”
London mayor Boris Johnson has welcomed the move. He said that Transport for London would be submitting an application for a scheme that could be up and running by the summer.
How the proposed scheme will work
Local authorities need to apply to the DfT to implement a lane rental scheme
To be eligible the local authority must have exhausted other options, including using a permit scheme. They will also need to evaluate it annually so the evidence can be used to help implement other schemes.
Guidance for local authorities say charge levels must be appropriate to their individual circumstances ie they must show that the charges are proportionate to the costs imposed by the roadworks in question.
Revenues raised will have to be used by councils to fund measures to help reduce future disruption. Transport for London, for example, has said it might look at investing in quick curing materials and improved plating technology to allow excavations to be temporarily covered so roads could return to normal use more quickly.
According to figures from the mayor’s office, the permitting scheme on London’s red routes will have reduced serious disruption by almost 40% by the end of the financial year. It predicts that a lane rental scheme could improve this by a further 33% by 2015.