Street Works UK – the trade association for utilities and their contractor partners on street works issues – has today warned against government proposals to allow councils to charge utilities hourly rates for access to the highway.
Responding formally to the government consultation on such lane rental schemes, Street Works UK noted significant concerns with the policy. The organisation argued the schemes would result in bill increases for the essential services that every household in the country depends on, as they would place additional cost and time burdens on utilities.
Street Works UK said lane rental schemes could also undermine commercial investment that supports government priorities such as the superfast broadband rollout or improving the resilience of the electricity network to allow for increased usage of electric cars. This may slow the progress of these vital schemes.
Such schemes would also fail in their main aim to reduce congestion for road users, said Street Works UK, as local authorities already possess all the necessary tools to co-ordinate and manage street works. They are simply not being used effectively currently. Local authority road works, which make up a significant amount of all works, will also not be covered by the schemes as set out in the consultation.
Street Works UK’s submission to the consultation outlines how a more streamlined and well defined approach can, if implemented properly deliver continued investment in key infrastructure as well as reduced disruption to road users. This would involve a more consistent version of the current permitting system being rolled out to all highways authorities and the implementation of a system of “super permits” where necessary and appropriate.
Bob Gallienne, Street Works UK CEO, commented:
“There is a risk that government proposals to charge utilities for access to the highway will increase consumers’ bills. They may also deter vital commercial investment in the nation’s infrastructure which would otherwise boost economic growth, improve productivity, and deliver new services such as superfast broadband.
Utilities are committed to undertaking street works in a way which minimises road occupation and causes as little disruption to road users as possible. We are continuously looking for ways of delivering street works more effectively, and will continue to do so, but these proposals will do little to reduce congestion.
Street Works UK is calling for a more consistent and streamlined approach to managing street works. We are keen to work with government and highways authorities to help refine and implement this approach in a way that ensures continued investment in key infrastructure as well as helping reduce congestion for motorists.”