Utility companies who do not finish their road works on time will face increased charges under new plans announced today by Transport Minister Sadiq Khan MP.
The current maximum daily charge is £2,500, but to encourage companies to complete works on time increases to as much as £25,000 may be justified.
Also proposed are lane rental schemes for those companies wanting to carry out works on the busiest roads and good practice guidance for councils and utility companies. This guidance will outline how to make sure that those affected most by street works disruption are informed properly, for example, through working with bus companies to ensure that they can plan alternative routes and by text messaging residents and commuters affected by road works.
The plan was drawn after the Department for Transport hosted the street works summit with road user groups, utility companies, bus operators and local authorities in October 2009.
Sadiq Khan MP said:
"Everyone knows that road works are necessary to keep essential infrastructure in good order but councils and utility companies need to keep disruption to a minimum for the travelling public.
"Each year road works cost our country £4.2 billion - this is unacceptable and unaffordable. Some contractors are showing a blatant disregard for the needs of road users which is why I am proposing to increase the maximum fines for utility companies who let their road works overrun as well as putting forward proposals to charge companies for carrying out work on the busiest routes where disruption affects the most people.
"We want to ensure that utility companies and local authorities are doing everything they can to reduce disruption whether this means working with bus operators to ensure they have enough notice to plan alternative routes or improving communication with commuters and local residents affected by road works."
Plans published today include:
- Develop, consult and implement an increase in maximum overrun charges for traffic sensitive routes.
- Revise inspection regulations to ensure that those with a poor performance record face a greater inspection burden.
- Develop, consult and implement new regulations for lane rental to operate on the most traffic sensitive routes.
- Produce good practice guide for utility companies and highway authorities on improving communications with road users and communities.
- Publish advice for councils on drawing up an application for permit schemes.
- Develop scoring system of road works sector to improve data on performance.
The DfT will also publish a report from the Street Works Summit held in October 2009.
Notes to editors
1. Copies of the Street Works Summit Report and Action Plan are available on request.
2. The New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 (NRSWA) sets out the regulatory regime for works in the street carried out by undertakers. This was amended by the Traffic Management Act 2004 (TMA), which also introduced powers for local authorities to operate a permit scheme.
3. Statutory undertakers (mainly utility companies) have a statutory right to place, maintain or repair apparatus in or under the highway.
4. Permits scheme strengthens the tools at local authorities' disposal to carry out their network management duty under the Act. A council running a permit scheme is able to charge companies for providing a permit although any charge should cover costs and should not result in a surplus. In July, the Secretary of State approved the permit scheme submitted by Kent County Council, which will start on 25th January. In October the London Common Permit Scheme submitted by Transport for London and 18 London boroughs – Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Camden, City of London, Croydon, Ealing, Enfield, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham, Redbridge, Wandsworth and City of Westminster – was approved and will be implemented from 11th January.
5. It will be a criminal offence to work without a permit. The maximum fine will be £5,000. It will be an offence to not meet a permit condition, for which the maximum fine is £2,500. Fixed Penalty Notices, as an alternative enforcement mechanism, can also be given for working without a permit or not meeting a permit condition.
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