Councils all over England could be allowed to charge fees for blocking busy routes if proposals made by the Government are approved. The councils could be empowered to charge utility companies by the hour for any delays caused to motorists due to disruptive roadworks.
According to Transport Secretary Chris Gayling, billing utility companies in this way could reduce delays by half. His claims are substantiated by successful trials of the regulation in Kent and London. Statistics indicate that roadworks cost the economy a total of £4bn every year due to delayed products and late employees. If these proposals are approved, they could be introduced in 2019.
2.5 million roadworks projects are conducted every year. Some of these are performed on busy routes during rush hours. As a result of road closures, drivers get to their destinations late. The proposal by Secretary Gayling was supported by the MP for Epsom and Elwell. The latter indicated that these proposals could help councils ensure that utility companies stop conducting their work during the busiest time of the day along the most popular routes. By doing this, congestion would be reduced, the quality of journeys increased and a lot of time saved too.
Lane rental schemes
The proposals aim to have utility companies avoid working during rush hour on busy routes. They also aim to have these companies cooperate so as not to work repeatedly on the same piece of road. By coordinating their efforts and sticking to the proposed regulations, utility companies can increase roadworks efficiency and save people time and money. In the London trial, the utility companies coordinated their efforts 600 times and achieved the goals of the proposals.
The charges that could be levied by the councils are known as lane rental schemes. Utility companies can avoid them by working on roads on the weekends or in the evenings. Today, councils issue roadworking utility companies with permits. However, the new proposals would provide them with greater monitoring powers and control.
The rollout of these proposals is part of a grand plan by the government to provide councils with more ways through which they can manage roadworks. The overall aim is to support efficient delivery of infrastructure projects on a national scale.
Opposition to the proposals
Bob Galliene is the Chief Executive of the National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG). He expressed criticism for the proposals by pointing out that utility companies are currently providing the infrastructure which is required to achieve positive economic growth, better productivity, provide broadband and construct new homes in the United Kingdom. The lane rental schemes would make it more difficult for utility companies to provide this vital infrastructure and value for money to consumers while also keeping disruption to a minimum.
The AA president Edmund King also pointed out that it is not acceptable for roads to be repaired quickly but ineffectively by utility companies trying to stay within the lane rental schemes. His main point is that the utility companies which are affected by the proposed regulations should maintain good quality work.
Support for the proposals
Martin Tett is the spokesman of the Local Government Association and he expressed support for these proposals. He indicated that they can ensure the successful completion of roadworks in the shortest amount of time. Nicholas Lyes, the RAC roads policy spokesman agreed with this opinion and indicated that drivers are often frustrated and delayed by road closures.
Overall, during the trial period in London and Kent, the lane rental schemes saw massive success. Disruptions were reduced by 50%. Moreover, cyclists, drivers and passengers experienced shorter journey times while emissions were reduced too.