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UK government to introduce congestion-busting 'lane rental' schemes nationwide

Following successful pilot trials in London and Kent, the UK government is rolling out ‘lane rental’ schemes nationwide as a means to help reduce traffic congestion caused by roadworks.

About 2.5 million roadworks are carried out in the UK each year, costing the economy £4bn (US$5.6bn) in increased costs to businesses through late employees or deliveries. The lane rental schemes, where utility companies are charged up to £2,500 (US$3,500) a day for digging up the busiest roads at peak times, could now be adopted by councils across the country after successful trials in the Southeast.

Pilot lane rental schemes in London and Kent have seen congestion on the busiest roads drop, reducing delays, and saving drivers time while boosting the economy. The schemes incentivize companies to work on quieter roads or outside of the rush hours, or even to collaborate with other companies to stop roads being dug up multiple times, to reduce the impact of roadworks on drivers.

The Department for Transport (DfT) carried out a consultation into the scheme last year, and the majority of those responding supported its roll-out nationwide. Many said they wanted to take advantage of the ‘clear benefits’ of lane rental schemes.

In London, utility companies have worked together more than 600 times since lane rental was introduced in 2015, up from just 100 beforehand. The DfT will produce guidance in the autumn to help councils develop lane rental schemes for approval. The first schemes could start by the end of 2019.

“Drivers often see red when roadworks cause them delays, especially if no one is working on them,” explained UK Transport Minister Jo Johnson. “Lane rental has seen a massive drop in disruption to drivers as utility companies have changed when and where they carry out work. Now we want millions of motorists around England to get the same benefits.”

Head of roads policy at the RAC motoring organization Nicholas Lyes commented, “This is a very welcome announcement. Trials showed that some of the worst congestion caused by planned utility works in London was reduced by half on roads where lane rental was in operation, so rolling this out will extend the benefits nationwide.

“While motorists accept that some roadworks and congestion are unavoidable, lengthy and unnecessary queues are incredibly frustrating. Our research suggests congestion on our roads and journey time reliability are growing concerns for motorists, so introducing lane rental should encourage better planning and coordination of roadworks, and mean utility works are completed in a swifter, more efficient manner.” 

February 20, 2018

Written by Adam Frost

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