Companies face charges for digging up roads in bid to tackle congestion

Charges for utility companies digging up roads will be rolled out across England to reduce congestion.
Charges for utility companies digging up roads will be rolled out across England to reduce congestion.

Charges for utility companies digging up roads will be rolled out across England to reduce congestion, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

Lane rental schemes involving daily fees of up to £2,500 for roadworks on the busiest streets at peak times can be adopted by councils nationwide after trials in the South East.

Pilots in London and Kent led to a reduction in traffic jams as firms were incentivised to work on quieter roads or outside the rush hour, according to the DfT.

The charges also encourage companies to collaborate with each other to stop roads being dug up multiple times.

Around 2.5 million roadworks are carried out each year, costing the economy £4 billion, DfT figures show.

Transport minister Jo Johnson said: "Drivers often see red when roadworks cause them delays, especially if no one is working on them.

"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."

The majority of responses to a consultation into the scheme supported its roll out, the DfT said.

The department will produce guidance in the autumn to help councils develop lane rental projects for approval.

Most highways authorities currently use a permit scheme to oversee roadworks.

Lane rentals would give councils more power to manage work on the busiest routes and at peak times.

The first schemes could start by the end of next year.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: "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."

Local Government Association transport spokeswoman Judith Blake said: "The lane rental scheme offers a clear incentive for utility companies and their contractors to minimise the time they spend in occupation of the road."