Local authorities have resoundingly backed plans to allow lane rental pilots to continue, despite opposition from utility companies, as the Government strongly hinted that it favours the ‘congestion-busting’ approach to managing road works.
The Department for Transport (DfT) said that, following a consultation, it will remove a ‘sunset clause’ in the relevant legislation that would have brought successful pilots in Kent and London to an end in March.
It said the two pioneer lane rental schemes, where utility companies are charged up to £2,500 a day for carrying out roadworks on busy roads at the busiest times, had halved disruption for drivers.
Ministers are considering rolling out the scheme to other areas in England following a separate consultation.
The DfT said: ‘The Government will announce and put in place the longer term solution to lane rental as soon as possible.’ A decision is due ‘shortly.’
Transport secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘We’ve seen disruption to road users severely drop when works are carried out on quieter stretches away from heavy traffic.
‘Allowing Kent and London to continue with their lane rental schemes will mean millions of drivers will have better journeys.’
The majority (46) of 75 responses to the consultation on removing the sunset clause supported the move, with 24 local highway authorities unanimously in favour and 22 utility companies unanimously opposed.
Councils said the current schemes are demonstrating that lane rental is an effective way of reducing congestion caused by street and road works on heavily congested parts of the road network.
Interestingly, utility companies opposed the move on similar grounds, arguing that the two pioneer schemes have been running for a suitable length of time to allow the Government to make an assessment of how they have performed.
Matthew Balfour, Kent County Council’s cabinet member for Highways, said: ‘Kent County Council is pleased that with the removal of the sunset clause it is able to continue its successful lane rental scheme.
‘The scheme has incentivised a change in how work is carried out on the busiest parts of Kent’s road network so that disruption is minimised by: working differently with new technology; thinking differently about how work is carried out; working at different times of day; and better planning of work.’
Currently, most highway authorities use a permit scheme to oversee road works. The DfT said that if lane rental is rolled out across the country changes could be introduced next year.
It said 2.5 million roadworks are carried out in England each year, costing the economy £4bn.