Two major groups in the highways sector have rejected any potential roll-out of lane rental schemes, which could see those carrying out road works charged up to £2,500 a day.
The two main constituent bodies of the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC (UK) ) – which brings together authorities, utilities and government – both presented alternative ways forward.
The joint chairs of HAUC (UK) and chief executives of JAG (UK), which represents local authorities, and the National Joint Utilities Group (NJUG) spoke to Highways as they prepare to respond to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) recent consultation on the issue.
Finding a way to reduce congestion from road works during peak hours has been on the agenda for years in the sector, although the complexity of the situation and its potential to create perverse incentives has made progress difficult.
In its latest consultation, the DfT does not give a preferred option between ending lane rental; allowing lane rental trials in Kent and London to continue; rolling lane rental out on a conditional basis to permitting authorities; or amending permit schemes to create the option of so-called ‘super permits’ to help coordinate road works better.
As with the charges from lane rental, ‘super permits’ would aim to change behaviour by imposing stricter conditions on works carried out on the busiest roads at the busiest times.
Super permits are the preferred option of JAG (UK), its CEO, Jerry McConkey, told Highways.
‘We believe the answer is through permits, as it gives consistency and transparency. A permit scheme should be cost neutral, with costs reviewed every three years. Super permits are the best option [in the consultation] and would encourage the most efficiency.’
DfT officials said: ‘The regulations could set additional rules for “super permits” that would allow, for example, LHAs [local highways authorities] to challenge proposed durations for standard and major works. Discounts and fee waivers could be offered for moving works to less busy times, with the fees being scaled according to the time spent in the road at the busiest times, there could be additional fines to help enforce the conditions, etc.’
Local highways authorities would decide which roads would need a super permit but the DfT expects it to be around 5% of the local road network.
NJUG chief executive Bob Gallienne told Highways: ‘Lane rental schemes make it harder for utilities companies to deliver vital infrastructure and value for money for consumers while minimising disruption.
‘This consultation is a chance to explore how disruption can be reduced for road users at the same time as minimising the policy burden on utilities companies. NJUG is currently working with a range of stakeholders to develop a Future Strategy for Street Works, setting out a blue print for delivering world class street works.’