More utility company fines for overrunning roadworks will boost road repair budgets

Having overseen a continual decline in the state of repair of the UK’s road network since taking power in 2010, the government is celebrating National Pothole Day with a measure it says will crack down on disruptive roadworks and generate up to £100m to improve local roads.

A street works consultation has been launched by roads minister Guy Opperman, which will explore various measures designed to discourage utility companies from letting roadworks overrun.

Currently, utility companies can be fined £10,000 for each working day they overrun into, and the government wants to extend the fines to include weekends and bank holidays. It says that will deter companies from working in the busiest periods for travel.

The new plan also seeks to direct local councils to spend at least half the money they generate from so-called ‘lane rental’ schemes on roads maintenance and repair. Lane rental is the name of the scheme allowing local highway authorities to charge utility companies while their roadworks occupy the road, but the new government scheme makes no mention of additional funding for other spending cuts councils may be forced to make if lane rental income must be diverted from other programmes back into roads. 

Together, the government says, its new measures could generate an extra £100 million for road improvements over the next decade, and help to fight congestion. While acknowledging that utility companies need to carry out vital maintenance and upgrades, it estimates the two million street works carried out in England alone carried a £4 billion cost to the economy through congestion and delay.

“This Government is backing drivers, with a robust approach to utility companies and others, who dig up our streets”, Opperman said. “We will seek to massively increase fines for companies that breach conditions and fine works that overrun into weekends and bank holidays, while making the rental for such works help generate up to an extra £100 million to improve local roads.”

Head of policy at the RAC, Simon Williams, agrees that drivers shouldn’t have to put up with roadworks for any longer than is necessary, but pointed out that utility companies should also leave roads in better condition than they found them “which is hardly ever the case at the moment’.

Fed up with the state of your local roads? Find out how to become a ‘citizen surveyor’ here


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