DfT warned over loophole in unmanned road works plans


The Department for Transport (DfT) has said it will listen to the highways sector's concerns after a senior figure warned plans to prevent unmanned road works at weekends could be undermined by a major loophole.

It has also confirmed that there ‘no plans’ to revive the infamous ‘Cones Hotline’ - brought in by Sir John Major when in government – or its equivalent, to support the programme.

The comments follow the launch of a DfT consultation on plans to fine highways authorities and utilities for leaving unmanned road works in place at the weekend and for not clearing temporary traffic lights once the work is done. Fines as high as £5,000 a day have been mooted.


In order to avoid penalties, authorities and utilities would have to demonstrate there was ‘work being carried out to progress the job’, the DfT said in its consultation.

Jerry McConkey, acting CEO of the Joint Authorities Group (JAG) UK, which represents the interests of highway and road authorities, warned that this raises the ‘potential for a loophole’.

‘There may be someone on site but it can’t be the lowest paid person in the company just brushing up,’ he told Transport Network.

Mr McConkey did support the principle behind the proposals stating they would help limit disruption and encourage better planning of works.

‘We have spoken to Government year after year to take this issue away. Disruption will never stop until we get people working everyday. If the proposals come in, it will make people plan works better, rather than starting on Friday they might start on Monday for instance.’

However he warned that the extra cost of inspections for councils should be ‘funded’ from outside local government.

‘There are different options. New inspections could be funded by utilities or government,’ he said.

The DfT states in an impact assessment on the plans that: ‘Charges levied on non-compliant works effectively represent a new income stream for local authorities.’ However Mr McConkey went on to say that the funding could not be ‘speculative’.

DfT officials also state that ‘a solution such as photographic evidence may reduce the need for staff to visit sites at weekends’, but Mr McConkey largely dismissed this as being unlikely to provide a robust inspection regime.

He also claimed that council road works are usually carried out every day, whereas utilities are often more fragmented, with teams sometimes having to wait for different people to arrive on site at different times to do different parts of the job.

A DfT spokesman said it would look at concerns raised by the sector through the consultation process and told Transport Network there were no current plans for a national hotline to help the public report on unmanned road works.


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