'Lane rental' schemes would allow councils to charge utility companies to dig up the busiest roads during peak times.
Innovative measures to cut the number of rush hour road works were announced today (22 August, 2011) by Transport Secretary Philip Hammond.
Under ‘lane rental’ schemes councils would be able to charge utility companies to dig up the busiest roads during peak times when road works cause the most disruption. Companies would be able to avoid the charges by carrying out works during quieter periods or, if appropriate, at night.
Philip Hammond said:
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.
This disruption is expensive as well as inconvenient, with one estimate valuing the loss to the economy from road works congestion at £4 billion 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 to the travelling public.
The Department for Transport has today published a consultation and draft guidance to councils outlining how lane rental schemes could be implemented. Any councils wishing to put in place a lane rental scheme would need to gain approval from the department.
In order to gather evidence on the effectiveness of lane rental, the department has proposed that schemes should initially be used in one urban and one non-metropolitan area.
The proposals are clear that lane rental charges must be avoidable and proportionate to the costs of congestion. Councils are also being encouraged to apply the same principles to their own works and come forward with lane rental schemes which fit the needs of their local area.
Any revenue raised from the implementation of lane rental charges would be used by councils to fund measures which could help to reduce future road works disruption. This could include infrastructure work, research or measures to improve the management of works.
The consultation will close on 31 October 2011.
Notes to editors
The consultation document is available.
Local councils will need to propose charge levels that are appropriate to their individual circumstances. In particular, they will need to show that their charges are proportionate to the costs imposed by works on the roads in question. This is subject to a proposed maximum charge of £2,500 per day.
The primary legislation (section 74A of the New Roads and Street Works Act 1991) provides the necessary powers for local highway authorities to put in place lane rental schemes, subject (in England) to the approval of the Secretary of State for Transport, and allows regulations to make further provision about such schemes.
Lane rental pilot schemes were operated in Camden and Middlesbrough between 2002 and 2004, but no further schemes have since been implemented. As a result of subsequent changes to various aspects of street works legislation, the existing lane rental regulations are now out of date and, in effect, inoperable.
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