The UK government is considering charging utilities companies lane rental to help reduce the time it takes for roadworks to be completed ─ the bugbear of many motorists.
By charging per hour for work to be done on selected roads at the busiest times, local councils would encourage utility companies to be more efficient, avoid peak traffic and work together where possible, saving the need for multiple roadwork stints.
Trials of the proposals outlined by the Department for Transport have already proven successful in London and Kent, with roadwork delays said to have been halved and the amount of cooperation between utility companies increased by six-fold.
Kent County Council has been using the system since 2012, which allows councils to impose a charge of up to £2,500 for each day a highway is occupied by roadworks.
“These proposals would give council’s greater powers to ensure utility companies avoid carrying out the works at the busiest times and on the most popular routes,” explained Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.
“This would not only improve journeys and cut congestion, but also save businesses from the increased costs they incur as a result of traffic on our roads,” he added.
Current practice sees councils use permit schemes to monitor roadwork jobs, which is a system that has been letting down road users for a long time.
AA president Edmund King is hoping the Government implements the idea across the UK: “Drivers are alwaus baffled that the water company will dig a hole and fill it, only for it to be opened up again by their broadband provider weeks later.
“We hope that collaboration between and cooperative work plans between service providers will now be standard practice.”
There is, however, a concern that putting utility companies under too much pressure could increase the likelihood of a ‘bodge job’, which could be more of a problem longer term. “It wouldn’t be acceptable for the road to be patched up quickly and poorly, just to try and keep within their rental period,” he added.
The Department for Transport consultation period will run until November, 2017. The proposals are expected to kick in by 2019, but a ‘sunset clause’ in the original 2012 regulations means a lack of amendment will see the London and Kent schemes come to an end in March, 2019.
The 2.5million roadworks being carried out across the UK right now is estimated to cost the UK economy to the tune of £4billion in delays, productivity and business costs.
And anyone who has endured 50-odd miles of 50mph motorway cruising will say it causes an unquantifiable amounts of misery, too.