DfT's red tape removal likely to spur growth in road permit scheme systems
TfL and Kent likely to prove exemplars for councils keen to reduce streetworks disruption
The government has removed red tape making it easier for councils to launch road permit schemes granting utility firms access to infrastructure for works for an agreed period of time.
The changes, announced by local transport minister Norman Baker means councils will find it easier to tackle disruptive road works.
Road works permit schemes give local authorities power to control when and how utility companies dig up their roads. They also allow local councils to set conditions on the work, such as the length of time it will take utility companies to complete the work and the amount of road space to be left available for road users. Companies who work without a permit or break the conditions can be fined.
Permit schemes and the supporting systems behind them have been effective in reducing the time taken to complete works, reducing inconvenience for motorists and businesses alike.
But although local transport bodies have been able to issue permits for roadworks to utility firms since the 1991 New Roads and Streetworks Act, such measures have been almost unworkable due to amendments made to the legislation. Despite this, Transport for London (TfL), Kent County Council and Northamptonshire County Council either currently operate or have operated permit schemes.
In the first year of Kent County Council's permit scheme operation, highway occupation was reduced by the equivalent of six years, equating to a reduction in disruption of 5%.
Last year Transport for London (TfL) went out to tender for a Service Provider to provide and implement a fully hosted Local Street Works Register (LSWR). The system was needed to enable TfL to fulfil its statutory duties including the co-ordination of street and road works and is also central to the operation of the TfL Lane Rental Scheme (TLRS). A similar system is being developed at Transport for Greater Manchester, which issued a tender last year valued up to £3m over five years.
Currently councils wanting to introduce a permit scheme needed approval from the Department for Transport. This requirement will now be removed, giving councils more freedom in reducing congestion and making it easier to put new permit schemes in place.
Local transport minister Norman Baker said: "Road works may be necessary, but it can be incredibly frustrating for people when they get stuck in traffic jams. These changes are about making it easier for councils to introduce permit schemes and co-ordinate works on their roads."
Kable analyst Josh Hewer said, "Councils are finding it increasingly difficult to fund infrastructure works at a time when congestion is increasing. With legislative barriers removed we are now likely to see the 100 remaining councils pursuing streetworks permits schemes offering ICT opportunities around software for permit management. As councils work closer together delivering maintenance as Local Transport Bodies, shared permit management platforms will be an attractive project for councils."