Could lane rental go national?

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New proposals announced by Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, could see delays to motorists caused by utility companies digging up busy roads halved.

Under these new proposals, unveiled on Saturday, September 2, local authorities would have the ability to charge utility companies by the hour to carry out works on selected routes. This would encourage them to avoid peak times on the busier roads and would incentivise them to join together when congested routes did need to be dug up.

The UK economy currently loses £4bn a year though the 2.5m roadworks carried out, simply because people are unable to get to work on time or delayed deliveries, meaning business are faced with higher costs. The new proposals would mean journey times are improved, whilst providing a boost to the economy.

Speaking about the new proposals, Mr Grayling said: “Delays caused by roadworks can be the bane of drivers’ lives – especially when they take place at rush hour on busy routes.

“These proposals would give councils greater powers to ensure utility companies avoid carrying out works at the busiest times and on the most popular routes. 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.”

Giving councils more options in how they can manage roadworks will help support the delivery of national infrastructure projects such as the rollout of broadband fibre.

Currently, most local authorities use permit schemes to monitor roadworks, but lane rental would give them additional powers to manage works on the busiest roads at the busiest times.

Successful trials in London and Kent have already seen severe congestion caused by utility works fall by more than half.

Leon Daniels, Managing Director of Surface Transport for Transport for London, said of the plans: “We’re delighted about these plans to extend the lane rental scheme nationally. It has been a resounding success in the capital, with the amount of severe disruption caused by badly-managed or poorly-timed roadworks more than halved. This has helped improve journey times for bus passengers, drivers and cyclists, while also helping to tackle emissions.”

The Department for Transport is currently consulting on a series of options to minimise the disruption of works for road users and businesses, and to make schemes more efficient for utility companies carrying out necessary works.

The consultation period ends on Saturday, October 28, and changes could be implemented as soon as 2019.