Councils told to hit utility firms in the pocket for roadwork delays

 

Councils are to be encouraged to declare war on gas, electricity or water companies who infuriate motorists by digging up busy roads in rush hour.

The initiative by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is the second attempt in a decade to make the utilities think twice before they cause rush- hour traffic queues. Mr Hammond proposes to allow councils to charge the utilities "rent" during the rush hour, which means they could save money by doing work when roads are less busy, for instance at night.

When John Major became Prime Minister 20 years ago, he promised a war on traffic cones, and set up a hotline so that motorists could ring in when they spotted roads that were closed when no one was working.

He pushed through legislation in 1991 to enable councils to charge "rent" on busy roads. But nothing came of it until the Labour government launched pilot schemes in Camden and Middlesbrough, nearly 10 years ago. They were not followed up, and the 1991 Act has been superseded by so much other legislation it is effectively inoperable.

Mr Hammond is hoping that this time councils will show more enthusiasm about helping frustrated drivers. He has promised they can keep any money they raise through road rents, rather than surrender the proceeds to the Treasury – but they must spend it on road improvement schemes or research into improving traffic flow.

"Everyone knows how frustrating it can be when you are sat in a traffic jam, unable to get to work or drop off the children at school because someone is digging up the road," he said.

"This disruption is expensive as well as inconvenient, with one estimate valuing the loss to the economy from road works congestion at £4billion a year. We simply cannot afford this. That is why I am putting forward proposals which would incentivise utility companies and local authorities to carry out their works at times when they will cause the minimum disruption."

However, the draft guidance published today by the Department of Transport carries a warning that lane rental charges have to be "avoidable and proportionate to the costs of congestion." And councils aiming to charge lane rental must get approval from the Secretary of State.

It also suggests that if councils are going to charge utility companies for causing traffic jams, they should apply the same rules to their own staff when they are out mending potholes or doing other work that involves shutting off part of a road.

The department is also thinking of running experimental schemes, one in a city and one in a rural area, to test how effective they are, as the Labour government did in 2002 and 2004.

Roadworks in numbers

* Approximately 2.5 million trenches were dug in 2010 for utility work to be carried out.



* Forty-five per cent of people would rate utility companies' communication as "poor" in explaining the steps they are taking to maintain their networks.



* Ninety-four per cent of people say they are willing to accept the inconvenience of road works that help to maintain energy and water supplies.



* Deep trenches can weaken the structure of the road in which they are placed, shortening its life by 30 per cent or more.

Suggested Topics
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

    £16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

    £30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

    £13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

    Day In a Page

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

    How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

    Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

    Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
    Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

    Aviation history is littered with grand failures

    But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

    Fortress Europe?

    Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
    Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

    Never mind what you're wearing

    It's what you're reclining on that matters
    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence