New UK government proposals aim to cut congestion through ‘lane rentals’


Delays to motorists caused by utility companies digging up busy roads could be halved under new proposals announced by UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, with the news welcomed by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The Department for Transport’s (DfT) proposals would allow local authorities to charge utility companies by the hour to carry out works on selected routes, encouraging them to avoid busy roads and peak times, and incentivizing them to join together when they do need to dig up congested routes.

The 2.5 million roadworks currently carried out each year cost the UK economy £4bn (US$5.2bn), because people are unable to get to work on time or deliveries are delayed, resulting in higher costs for business. The new proposals that have been outlined could improve journey-times for drivers at the same time as delivering a boost to the economy. Successful trials in London and Kent have already seen severe congestion caused by utility works fall by more than half.

Companies could avoid the charges by carrying out road works during evenings and weekends or coordinating their plans. In London, utility companies have worked together more than 600 times since the trials began, up from just 100 beforehand. The schemes also act as an incentive for utilities to avoid congested routes and peak times where possible. The DfT says that by giving councils more options in how they can manage roadworks will help support the delivery of national infrastructure projects, such as the roll-out of broadband fiber.

“Delays caused by roadworks can be the bane of drivers’ lives, especially when they take place at rush hour on busy routes,” Grayling said.

“These proposals would give councils greater powers to ensure utility companies avoid carrying out works at the busiest times and on the most popular routes.

“Currently, most local authorities use permit schemes to monitor roadworks, but lane rental would give them additional powers to manage works on the busiest roads at the busiest times.”

LGA spokesman Martin Tett said, “We have been calling for lane rental powers for councils for a number of years. We are delighted that the government has accepted our calls and acknowledged the success of pilot schemes in London and Kent. We’re confident these new measures will help minimize delays from roadworks, and keep traffic moving on our local roads. The sooner councils are allowed to get on top of this problem the better.”

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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).