Minister pledges to cut road works misery

April 2, 2008 | By | In Statistics

Transport Minister promises fewer hold-ups and stiffer fines if work takes too longIs your journey to work plagued by roadworks?

The Department for Transport says too many drivers suffer delays because roads are dug up again and again, often at the busiest times.

Hold-ups cost Britain £4.9bn a year – a figure that the Government has promised to reduce.

To do this, Transport minister Rosie Winterton has given town halls across the country tougher powers – so that they insist that the gas and water companies and other hole-diggers give more notice before picking up their shovels.

The idea is that they will have more chance to co-ordinate jobs, so that a road isn’t excavated, then relaid – only to be dug up by someone else only a few weeks later.

Under the changes in the law this week, local councils can also ban work during rush hours. What’s more they can issue permits to work, which any company wishing to dig must first apply for. These permits will fix start and finish dates.

Local government can already ‘fine’ companies who take longer than they promised – up to £2000 per day. But councils who operate the permits scheme can also issue fixed penalty notices, fining anyone working without a permit £500. And any company breaking the permit’s rules risks a £250 ‘ticket’.

At the same time, local councils are using the Government’s eagerness to reduce roadwork delays as an excuse to cut their road repair spending. The law says that local councils must look after the roads and, in theory, drivers can sue authorities if they drive across a bumpy or broken road and it damages their cars. But councils routinely dodge such action if they have paperwork to prove that the surface has undergone regular inspection and repair. The trouble for drivers is that what ‘regular’ means is left to the councils to judge.

With this in mind, more than 20 authorities across Britain have, according to a new report, redefined how big a hole must be to count as a ‘pothole’. Now they must be at least 4cm deep. Anything shallower dsn’t count and so need not be repaired.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance publishes today (April 2) its yearly report on the state of Britain’s roads. This reveals that councils struggle to fill 10 million potholes a year and need £1bn extra cash from the Government to do the job.

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