Council leaders have called on ministers to make it easier to introduce lane rental schemes, warning that some areas of the country face ‘rush hour gridlock’ from utility company road works.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said councils should be able to introduce schemes without needing approval from the transport secretary, ‘which is a cumbersome and bureaucratic process’.
Lane rental schemes attempt to reduce congestion by charging work promoters, such as utilities, up to £2,500 for working on roads during daytime hours – often resulting in more schemes taking place at night.
Lane rental can mean more works are carried out at night
The LGA said revenue raised from lane rental charges would be used by councils to fund measures that help to reduce future road works disruption.
Currently, only Transport for London (TfL) and Kent County Council have only been granted approval to run lane rental schemes.
However, last month, Transport Network reported that the Department for Transport is formulating options on a possible expansion of lane rental, following successful results from London and Kent.
LGA transport spokesman Cllr Peter Box said: ‘Many of our towns and cities could face gridlock at rush hour unless robust and decisive action is taken right now.
‘However, local authorities are being hamstrung by a lack of effective powers to tackle this issue head on. Councils know their areas best and should be able to make decisions about traffic locally. This means they need the option of being able to introduce lane rental schemes without secretary of state approval, which is time-consuming and bureaucratic.’
The LGA said that 2.5 million road openings a year are caused by utility companies, and its research shows that three quarters of small businesses say this work has a “negative impact” – mainly in reduced sales.
It said councils spend nearly a fifth of their maintenance budgets – £220m – on tackling poorly done utility streetworks, which reduce road life by up to a third.
While councils need ministerial approval for lane rental schemes, permit schemes - which provide highway authorities with more scope to coordinate works and charge a fee for permit applications - no longer require the approval of the secretary of state following the Deregulation Act (2015).