Policy

Managing, improving and investing in the road network

Issue

There are increasing numbers of vehicles on UK roads, so we need to improve the quality of our road network, reduce congestion, make sure that traffic signs give road users the information they need to use roads safely and efficiently, and ensure that local parking enforcement is fair and effective.

Actions

Managing and improving the road network

The road network has suffered from a lack of investment for too long. This has worsened the experience of motorists and damaged the UK’s ability to compete.

To address these problems, the government announced in June 2013, in Investing in Britain’s future, plans to:

  • invest £28 billion to improve and maintain the national and local road networks and support jobs and growth
  • transform the Highways Agency into a publicly-owned corporation, to deliver a better service to road users, more efficiently

The government published the Roads command paper in July 2013, providing more information about these plans.

The government launched a consultation in October 2013 to set out these plans in more detail and seek views.

Traffic signs

To make sure road signs, traffic signals and road markings continue to give road users the information they need we are:

  • developing an updated traffic sign system that helps all road users
  • giving local councils more freedom to decide about signs
  • encouraging local councils to place traffic signs only where needed and to remove those that are confusing or unnecessary

Road congestion and parking enforcement

To reduce road congestion, we have:

Street works

Street works involve utility companies and others using equipment and machinery on the road. They are necessary to provide and maintain utility and transport services, but can be unnecessarily disruptive to road users. Street works are different from road works, which are works carried out to repair or improve the highway.

To make sure street works and road works are carried out in accordance with safety codes, and as quickly and efficiently as possible, the government is giving guidance to the street works sector and powers to local councils to coordinate and inspect street works in their local area.

We’re helping local councils to manage street works effectively by:

  • introducing new lane rental schemes which provide an incentive for utility companies to carry out road works faster with less traffic disruption
  • ending the need for the government to issue approval for local council permit schemes
  • increasing penalty charges where works take longer than agreed – raising the charge from October 2012 to a daily maximum of £5,000 with higher charges on the fourth and subsequent days
  • making sure utility companies and others who carry out road works return roads to a good condition after they have carried out works and communicate clearly with local authorities
  • considering changing the requirements for street works operatives and supervisors to hold specific qualifications
  • providing practical guidance on how street works should be carried out

We also provide draft planning conditions for local councils to consider applying to streets in new housing developments.

Background

In May 2010, as part of the coalition agreement, we announced our intention to introduce new powers for local councils that lets them make their own decisions on reducing congestion on local roads.

To make sure that road signs continue to meet the needs of road users the Department for Transport ran a review on the approach to traffic signing and published a new Signing the way policy in October 2011.

In November 2011, Alan Cook published his independent report A fresh start for the strategic road network setting out the challenges faced in managing the network and outlining a package of reforms to improve the current operating model.

In March 2012, the Prime Minister set out his vision for a horizon-shift in the national infrastructure investment. The Department for Transport and the Treasury have since been examining institutional reform options for the strategic road network, with a view to making the money that motorists already pay go further to deliver better overall value for motorists and taxpayers, and ensuring that the network has the future capital investment required to support national prosperity and economic growth.

To shape this policy, we used economic and statistical analysis, appraisal, evaluation, modelling and research.

Bills and legislation

Traffic signs

The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 set the rules for traffic signs, traffic lights and road markings that can be used on roads in England, Scotland and Wales. There have been several amendments to these regulations, and the most recent is the Traffic Signs (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations and General Directions 2011.

Zebra, Pelican and Puffin crossings have their own regulations.

Local council permit schemes

Local council permit schemes require anyone carrying out street works or road works to apply for a permit in advance and allow local councils to set conditions on timing, coordination and the amount of road space left available to road users.

Companies who work without a permit or break the conditions will be fined.

The government gives guidance to help local authorities develop and run permit schemes. We are working to simplify the process by removing the need for the government to approve new schemes.

Street works charges

We raised the ‘over-run’ charge if utilities companies take longer than agreed to complete works. The daily maximum is £5,000, with higher charges on the fourth and subsequent days. New regulations setting this out came into force in October 2012.

Protection of Freedoms Act 2012: recovery of unpaid parking charges

This guidance contains new laws relating to the recovery of unpaid parking charges on private land under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. The laws came into effect on 1 October 2012.

Traffic Management Act 2004

The Traffic Management Act (2004) was introduced to reduce congestion and disruption on the road network. The Traffic Management Act places a duty on local traffic councils to ensure the smooth movement of traffic on their road network and those networks of surrounding council.

Who we’ve consulted

In October 2013 we launched a consultation about turning the Highways Agency into a government-owned company.

In May 2013 we opened a consultation about options for a new Lower Thames Crossing.

In March 2012 we consulted on proposals to remove the current requirement for street works operatives and supervisors to hold specific qualifications.

In January 2012, we ran a consultation on removing the need for government to approve local permit schemes.

In August 2011, we ran a consultation on lane rental schemes with highway authorities, street works undertakers, road users, the business community, and suppliers of street works management systems and software.

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