The UK Government has set out plans to tackle roadwork-related disruption. Ministers have said the changes could help drive down congestion for millions of motorists, in addition to generating as much as £100 million extra over a decade to fund road resurfacing. 

According to a Department for Transport (DfT) news release on 15th January, the proposals form part of the Government’s “Plan for Drivers”, which was published last autumn and comprises various actions geared towards improving the driving experience and services for motorists. 

What measures has the Government outlined on street works? 

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Roads and Local Transport, Guy Opperman, has launched a street works consultation, which the DfT has said consists of measures to “prevent utility companies from letting roadworks overrun and clogging up traffic as a result.” 

Included in the consultation is a proposal to extend into the weekends and bank holidays the £10,000-per-day fine that is presently imposed on utility companies whenever their street works overrun. At the moment, utility companies are only hit with fines if disruption occurs on working days, but the expansion is meant to deter such firms from working on the busiest days for road travel. 

Companies that breach conditions associated with the work – such as by working without a permit – could face doubled fines in relation to this, from the current £500 up to a maximum of £1,000. 

The plans would also involve at least 50% of the proceeds from lane rental schemes being directed to the purposes of improving roads and repairing potholes. Lane rental schemes enable local highway authorities to charge companies for the time the road is occupied by road and street works. 

The DfT said that, taken together, the above measures could generate as much as £100 million extra over 10 years for the resurfacing of roads, at the same time as addressing congestion, shortening journey times, and helping drivers get to their destinations more easily. 

“A robust approach” to utility companies and other parties 

The Government acknowledged that it was “essential” for gas, water, and other utility companies to be able to undertake maintenance work to provide the services the public depends on. 

However, the DfT said that the two million street works carried out in England over 2022 to 2023 had caused an approximately £4 billion hit to the economy, due to the associated severe road congestion and disrupted journeys – hence the need for action. 

Mr Opperman commented: “Being stuck in traffic is infuriating for drivers. Too often, traffic jams are caused by overrunning street works. This Government is backing drivers, with a robust approach to utility companies and others, who dig up our streets.” 

The street works consultation closes at 11:59pm on 11th March 2024, and can be accessed via the GOV.UK website

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