UK Department for Transport says permit schemes reduce road work disruptions


The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) is urging councils across England to take up a ‘congestion busting’ scheme that reduces the traffic disruption caused by road works.

The DfT commissioned independent research company Ecorys UK to evaluate the effectiveness of street works permit schemes, where companies apply to highways authorities to carry out works. An evaluation report published by the DfT shows the permit schemes help reduce the length of disruption from road works by more than three days, and also revealed that these schemes cut the number of overrunning roadworks. Permit schemes cover works on all local roads and can be complemented by Lane Rental, where utility companies are charged daily for digging up the busiest roads at peak times. New Lane Rental guidance will be issued later this year. Around 65% of authorities now have these schemes in place, which the study shows are making a real difference. The remaining 35% are now being asked to introduce them, so that their local communities can benefit from this positive impact on journeys.

Introduced in 2010, and now with over 100 schemes in operation, the permit systems give councils more control over the planning and managing street and road works. Local authorities can also add conditions to the road works, such as the time when works can start and end, limits on the number of days they can be in place, and where equipment should be stored, to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum. Councils may charge a fee to cover the administration costs of permits. The DfT supports the Ecorys report’s central recommendation that authorities not currently operating a permit scheme should consider introducing one, and will be working with the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (England) over the coming months to consider all of the recommendations.

The report follows the announcement of a national roll-out of lane rental schemes later this year, which will see companies charged up to £2,500 (US$3,300) per day to carry out works on busy roads. Pilot lane rental schemes in London and Kent have seen congestion on the busiest roads drop, saving drivers time and boosting the economy. It also comes after the Transport Secretary called on companies to carry out works on pavements, where possible, instead of under roads to avoid any disruption to motorists.

“Roadworks are the bane of drivers’ lives, causing delays and costing the UK economy £4.3bn (US$5.6bn) a year,” said UK Roads Minister, Jesse Norman. “Permit schemes are proven to reduce the length of road works, allowing motorists to have fewer disrupted journeys, and reducing the burden on businesses. More councils should look at adopting permit schemes, as well as lane rental schemes in due course, to help drivers get to work and visit friends and family quickly and safely.” 

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).