Councils to get tough on traffic chaos from utility roadworks
Councils are calling for tough new powers to crack down on traffic chaos caused by some utility companies digging up roads.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is calling for urgent action from the Government to make it easier for councils to be able to introduce lane rental schemes if needed, without the requirement to get approval from the Secretary of State for Transport.
Currently 2.5 million road openings a year are caused by utility companies. LGA research shows that three quarters of small businesses say this work has a “negative impact” – mainly in reduced sales.
The lane rental scheme means utility companies, such as gas, water and cable providers, are charged a daily rate for work carried out on key congested roads during busy periods, such as rush hour. This incentivises companies to finish faster.
Revenue raised from lane rental charges would be used by councils to fund measures which help to reduce future road works disruption.
Currently, Transport for London (TfL) and Kent County Council have been the only ones granted approval to run lane rental schemes. In the two years since the scheme was introduced in London, it is said to have cut serious and severe disruption from roadworks by almost half.
There are also incentives in the lane rental scheme to ensure utility companies get it right first time to avoid being forced to redo the work and pay lane rental prices again.
LGA Transport spokesman Cllr Peter Box said: “Many of our towns and cities could face gridlock at rush-hour unless robust and decisive action is taken right now.
“However, local authorities are being hamstrung by a lack of effective powers to tackle this issue head on. Councils know their areas best and should be able to make decisions about traffic locally. This means they need the option of being able to introduce lane rental schemes without Secretary of State approval, which is time-consuming and bureaucratic.
“With the increasing demand for new and upgraded services and an ageing utility infrastructure there needs to be powerful incentives to ensure utility companies carry out necessary work in the most effective way with the absolute minimum of disruption. The lane rental scheme has been proven to provide this for key roads in London and Kent.”