Utility companies who do not finish their road works on time will face increased charges under new plans announced by Transport Minister Sadiq Khan MP.
The New Roads and Street Works Act 1991 sets out the current regulatory regime for street works. This was amended by the Traffic Management Act 2004, which introduced powers for local authorities to operate a permit scheme.
So-called "statutory undertakers" - mainly utility companies - have a statutory right to place, maintain or repair apparatus in or under the highway.
Under new proposals, it will be a criminal offence to work without a permit, carrying a maximum daily fine of £5,000. It will also be an offence to not meet a permit condition, for which the maximum daily fine is £2,500. Fixed Penalty Notices, as an alternative enforcement mechanism, can also be given for working without a permit or not meeting a permit condition.
To encourage companies to complete works on time, the Department of Transport says an increase in daily fines to as much as £25,000 may be justified.
In addition to increasing overrun charges for traffic sensitive routes, other DoT proposals published by the DoT include:
- Revised inspection regulations to ensure that those with a poor performance record face a greater inspection burden.
- New regulations for lane rental schemes for those companies wanting to carry out works on the busiest roads.
- Good practice guidance for utility companies, highway authorities, and councils to improve communications with road users and affected communities.
- A scoring system for the road works sector to improve performance data.
The plan was drawn up after the DoT hosted the street works summit with road user groups, utility companies, bus operators and local authorities in October 2009.
Announcing the plan, Sadiq Khan MP said:
"Everyone knows that road works are necessary to keep essential infrastructure in good order but councils and utility companies need to keep disruption to a minimum for the travelling public.
"Each year road works cost our country £4.2 billion - this is unacceptable and unaffordable. Some contractors are showing a blatant disregard for the needs of road users which is why I am proposing to increase the maximum fines for utility companies who let their road works overrun as well as putting forward proposals to charge companies for carrying out work on the busiest routes where disruption affects the most people.
"We want to ensure that utility companies and local authorities are doing everything they can to reduce disruption whether this means working with bus operators to ensure they have enough notice to plan alternative routes or improving communication with commuters and local residents affected by road works."