TfL’s Lane Rental scheme facilitates reduced disruption from roadworks in London


Repairs and maintenance on underground pipes can have a significant impact on road networks – leading to road closures and congestion. Transport for London’s (TfL’s) pioneering Lane Rental scheme has supported 79 projects that aim to improve how roadworks are carried out. This is making a real difference to the disruption caused to the capital’s road network.

TfL has recently modernized its Lane Rental scheme, which aims to reduce this disruption by charging utility companies a daily fee for digging up the busiest sections of London’s roads and pavements at the busiest times. The funding is then available to help find new ways of making London’s roads more efficient by reducing delays caused by utility works and other roadworks. TfL extended the scheme in May to charge for roadworks on 20 of the capital’s footways, charging £350 (US$485) per day for works that have an impact on the busiest areas of pavement in the capital, to minimize disruption to people walking. This, alongside initiatives like the Mayor’s Infrastructure Coordination Service, are delivering on the Mayor’s commitment to reduce road network disruption.

The scheme recently part funded a project with Thames Water to trial innovative new Die Draw technology on Seven Sisters Road as an alternative method to replacing the road’s water main. The technology uses a special thermoplastic material to create a new lining within an existing pipe that has leaks. This method significantly reduces the number of holes that need to be dug on a road to reach the water main, further decreasing traffic and pedestrian disruption. On Seven Sisters Road, over 500m of pipework has been replaced using a small number of excavations, causing less traffic disruption than a full pipe replacement.

Other projects to receive funding from Lane Rental include:

  • The creation of an augmented reality mapping application to display underground abandoned mains and spare infrastructure, so that they can be used by the industry to avoid digging up the road when laying new apparatus
  • The development of an AI-powered disruption-detection engine that proactively spots and identifies issues by sifting through social media posts generated about traffic in London
  • The testing of a multisensor inspection survey robot for use on large sewers to determine levels of deformation, corrosion and sediment build-up without excavation
  • Trialling the use of tarmac that uses recycled plastic pellets to strengthen road surfaces and increase longevity.

“London’s road network plays an absolutely vital role in keeping the capital moving and we’re working closely with utility companies to see how we can reduce the impact of roadworks,” says Glynn Barton, TfL’s director of network management. “The use of innovative new technology could make a real difference in reducing delays on our roads, cutting congestion and the pollution it can cause. We’ll carry on working closely with the industry to ensure an even cleaner and more sustainable road network can continue to play a role in the capital’s recovery from the pandemic.”

“Reducing leakage is one of our most important priorities but sometimes this means fixing pipes on busy roads in the capital and we recognize this can be disruptive to our customers and road users,” says Steve Spencer, Thames Water Operations director. “By investing in new technology to replace these pipes, some of which are from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, we can help reduce the impact of our roadworks and ensure we protect London’s water supply for future generations.”

Since Lane Rental was introduced in 2012, there has been a 31% increase in companies working at the same site, at the same time, and a 30% rise in planned utility works at night. More than £25m (US$35m) in Lane Rental funding has been allocated to 79 schemes that aim to improve how roadworks are carried out.

The Lane Rental scheme is one of the ways TfL is working to deliver the Mayor’s Vision Zero goal of eliminating death and serious injury on the transport network, by incentivizing companies to commit to and demonstrate the very highest safety standards when carrying out roadworks.

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Lauren is a regular contributor to Traffic Technology International (TTi) and a freelance technical journalist. Over the past 15 years, she has worked on a wide variety of B2B publications and websites, including a stint as deputy editor of Traffic Technology International from 2014-2016. She has a degree in English from the University of Exeter. Lauren is mum to two busy little girls. She is always in demand!