Drivers will be relieved to hear that a Kent County Council scheme to reduce congestion on Kent’s busiest roads has been given the seal of approval by the Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin.
Companies will be charged up to £2,000 per day for digging up the busiest roads on the network at peak times under the new Kent lane rental scheme, starting from 28 May 2013.
Kent is the first county council in the country to run the groundbreaking scheme, which aims to push utility contractors to work on the roads during the night and at off peak times or to use techniques such as tunnelling more often to avoid closing the road altogether.
The scheme covers over 465 roads in Kent in the areas most susceptible to major roadwork disruption. Revenue generated from the scheme will be invested in further work to cut congestion in Kent.
Norman Baker, Transport Minister, said:
Everyone who uses the roads knows how frustrating it is to find major routes being dug up in the middle of the rush hour. It is inconvenient and can be expensive, which is why we have taken action to ensure essential road works cause minimum disruptions on Kent’s most traffic sensitive streets.
Kent’s lane rental scheme puts road users and businesses at the heart of the county, encouraging utility companies and local authorities to complete their work as quickly as possible.
Kent County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, Highways and Waste, Bryan Sweetland, said:
We are committed to keeping all of our roads, especially the busiest routes, moving in Kent. This proves really difficult when companies decide to carry out their road works on our most heavily used roads at the most inconvenient times for drivers.
The Kent lane rental scheme will mean that companies will have to think intelligently about the scale and duration of works on our key routes, or incur a substantial charge for the disruption that they cause to Kent’s motorists.
Les Guest, CEO of the National Joint Utilities Group, said:
The National Joint Utilities Group Ltd (NJUG) wishes to place on record its appreciation for the inclusive and collaborative way in which Kent County Council has consulted with us and our utility members in the development of its scheme. Whilst NJUG is yet to be convinced that lane rental will deliver substantial additional benefits over and above the existing legislation already available, we believe that Kent County Council’s approach takes a sophisticated look at using lane rental in a very targeted way, balancing the need to reduce the unfortunate disruption which sometime arises from utilities’ essential street works, with the need to invest in essential utility services and not unnecessarily increasing consumers’ bills. We look forward to continuing to work with Kent County Council in the implementation and measurement of the scheme and we congratulate them on securing approval of their scheme.
The scheme follows the introduction 2 years ago of the ground-breaking Kent permit scheme, which requires companies to apply for permission to dig up a road. This allows the county council to manage and co-ordinate works – getting firms to work at the same time instead of digging holes separately – minimising jams and delays suffered by motorists and other road users.
The permit scheme also requires conditions on how roadworks are carried out, such as increasing the number of gangs, lengthening the hours worked each day, completing work during holiday periods, and working a 7 day week all to make sure the job gets done in the shortest possible time with the least inconvenience. It has cut the duration of road works by 1 day in every 20, according to a report published after the scheme’s first year.
The new lane rental scheme will build on the success of the permit scheme and provide a clear financial incentive to avoid unnecessary disruption to our most important roads.