New plans to prevent potholes and save us from roadwork stress

Prevent potholes

This could be a less frequent sight if new plans for lane charging get the nod (Picture iStock/Northlightsimages)

Plans are being drawn up to reduce roadworks and slash the number of potholes. The government wants to charge utility firms for the amount of time they occupy roads. In addition, there are proposals to swap roadworks for pavement works. The idea is to reduce the frequency that roads are dug up and cut potholes.

It is estimated that there are 2.5m road openings per year by gas, water and cable companies. The disruption to drivers by companies digging the road up costs the UK economy £4billion a year. And a new report reveals council roadworks overran by 132,000 days between April and July 2017. Read on to find out how the roadworks dilemma might be solved.

Why will digging up the pavement help?

The belief is that digging up pavements will reduce traffic disruption. It will also cut the number of cars damaged by potholes on roads. And because pavements have much lighter traffic than roads, the number of holes forming is likely to be cut. Transport secretary Chris Grayling told the Times: “You get far fewer holes appearing in intact roads than roads that have been regularly dug up. We are going to create a default that you have to look first at laying the utilities under the pavements rather than under the roads.”

Will it prevent potholes in practice?

Utility firms will be ordered to explore digging up the pavement or verge. If this isn’t viable, only then will they lay their pipes or cables under the road surface.

Won’t this mean potholed pavements?

The fear from campaigners is that this will simply move the problem elsewhere. The Campaign For Better Transport CEO Stephen Joseph said: “You can’t just export the problem from roads to pavements without expecting major consequences. The NHS spends an awful lot of money treating people who’ve had trips, slips and falls on uneven and badly maintained pavements.”

How will lane charging work?

Prevent potholes

The government has long been discussing charging utility companies for digging up the roads. Under new plans, local authorities will be able to charge anyone wanting to dig up the road by the hour. From 2019, councils could invoice up to £2500 a day.

What will be the benefits?

The volume of traffic in the UK is set to soar 55 per cent by 2040. Therefore the basic aim is to cut congestion. Reducing roadworks, or at least their impact, will help with that. Giving councils the ability to charge varying amounts depending on the time of day and location of the works should have multiple benefits.

Making costs lower at night or over weekends on busy routes will encourage utilities to work when they cause less traffic disruption. It will also give utility companies an incentive to work together. Sharing roadworks will stop the same piece of road being dug up repeatedly. Charging by the hour won’t just inspire utilities to do their work as quickly as possible. It will also mean they would do a better job of reinstating the carriageway once their cable or pipe has been laid as they could be liable for shoddy repairs.

Don’t companies already pay to dig up the roads?

In most of the UK, councils grant a permit to dig up roads for a set amount of time every year. However, since 2014 local authorities in London and Kent have been able to charge for digging up the road. According to the Local Government Association (LGA), disruption from roadworks in those areas has been cut by nearly half.

An LGA spokesman said: “Expanding the lane rental scheme nationwide would incentivise utility companies to do the job right first time around and help get our traffic moving again. With the increasing demand for new and upgraded services and an ageing utility infrastructure there need to be powerful incentives to ensure utility companies carry out necessary work in the most effective way with minimum disruption.”

11 comments on “New plans to prevent potholes and save us from roadwork stress

  1. Eric Hayman 14/05/2018 7:07 AM

    Imagine laying all the cables needed to run a railway UNDER THE TRACKS and having to dig noles UNDER THE TRACKS every tiime new cables were required! That just about summarises putting gas, water, electric and other utilities UNDER ROADS. Even if the pipes,etc were under pavements, they still have to cross roads to reach individual buildings. This is just an excuse to avoid admitting not enough money is spent all the time on our roads, and too little of the taxes paid by road users going on road maintenance.

  2. Peter martin mayhew 13/06/2018 9:18 AM

    Eric Harman has hit a very logical point !why this Government gets avoidance pimples over doing the right thing is very annoying,spend some cash on local roadways oops!another hike in council tax may be coming!l need a lie downPMM

  3. Colin Callow 10/07/2018 8:35 PM

    I have never heard of such rubbish, obviously nobody in the government has done any research. Although I have now retired I worked for over 40 years for utility companies and also a contractor.
    The pavement or verge was always the preferred option where possible for new installations because it was cheaper, but inevitably as the years have gone by the pavements especially in cities and towns are full and this is one of the main reasons the roads are then dug up.

  4. Robin Disney 11/07/2018 9:42 AM

    Hate to tell you but BT and the cable companies have already dug and laid lots of cables in the pavements with fibre optics, cable TV, electricity etc etc. There is not much room left for gas and water pipes

  5. BeeJay 12/07/2018 5:58 AM

    This should be reserved for April 1st.

  6. Eric Hayman 12/07/2018 7:23 AM

    For several months in an area in Bournemouth, major electricity cables laid decades ago under pavements are being replaced. First the holes are dug – by two men with a digger and dumper – to expose the old cables. Then other men come along and start the drawn-out task of laying plastic pipes to take the new cables. Then other men feed the new cables through the pipes. Then – by other men again? – the new cables are connected to the substation and to the houses and shops served by the supply. Then the holes are filled in by the first two men. At least it is not leaking gas or water pipes that they are replacing. One day the dumper was given a parking ticket!!

  7. Drew 12/07/2018 10:39 PM

    Having done roadside works for the gas industry for 28 years I’m fairly certain that no utility installs its infrastructure in a carriageway unless it really has no other viable option, never mind the existing assets that are already located in roads which will always require some form of maintenance. It’s common-sense to complete any work of this nature is the location that offers least resistance (verge, pavement, unsurfaced area, etc.) and if members of HM Government require further convincing invite them to wear the appropriate PPE on a nice sunny afternoon and have a go at excavating with a jackhammer in a hot-rolled asphalt carriageway.

  8. Charles Hobson 14/07/2018 9:29 AM

    Sometimes I wonder where this mentality comes from. This could only be achieved on new sites as there are old services in the roads that will be there for years to come and will need maintaining, these will not be replaced unless absolutely necessary. As someone who used to work on road projects I wondered why (on occasion ) why they never dug a trench in the paths and put in place a prefabricated concrete sleave to put the services into and top off with concrete sections so that no excavations would be needed in the future. Sure it would cost more to start with but no more carting materials diggers and think how quick work could be carried out.

  9. Keith Lovett 15/07/2018 9:57 AM

    In Honalulu under pavement utilities have been used for years. A continuous grid in the centre of the pavement in segments of about 8 feet. When utility companies require to do work they simply lift up the segments do the work, put the segments back, Ay presto job done no digging even, road runs without disruption. They got it right. Keith Lovett

  10. Geoff Cook 15/07/2018 10:06 AM

    Your article mentioned Kent as a place which already charges for road disruption. Recently they allowed the maximim speed limit to operate again after having spent two years with a 5 mile imposition of a much lower speed limit on the A20 between Folkestone and Dover. There were no roadworks or other activities during this time. They will always have the power to disrupt the driver.

  11. Derek Taylor 16/07/2018 5:13 AM

    Where will pedestrians be expected to walk while the pavements are being dug up? Out in the road, so that they are more exposed to the dangers of traffic? This will surely deter people from walking at a time when the government should be encouraging alternatives to car usage, both to promote personal health and to reduce pollution from vehicles.

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