William Eichler 15 August 2016

Councils call for power to fine utility companies for road works

Local authorities are calling for tough new powers to tackle ‘rush hour gridlock’ caused by utility companies digging up roads.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has requested the Government make it easier for councils to introduce lane rental schemes without the requirement to get approval from the Secretary of State for Transport.

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.

The LGA argued the scheme would incentivise these companies to finish work faster and the extra revenue raised would fund measures designed to help reduce future road works disruption.

Transport for London (TfL) and Kent County Council currently are the only organisations granted approval to run lane rental schemes and, the LGA claimed, it has cut serious and severe disruption from roadworks in London by almost half.

The schemes would also encourage utility companies to get the work right first time. Councils spend nearly a fifth of their maintenance budgets—£220m–on tackling poorly done utility streetworks, which reduce road life by up to a third.

Under a lane rental scheme, utility companies could be compelled to redo any poor work they carry out—paying lane rental prices again.

‘Many of our towns and cities could face gridlock at rush-hour unless robust and decisive action is taken right now,’ LGA Transport spokesman Cllr Peter Box said.

‘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.’

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