Two of the biggest trade associations in the freight sector, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Freight Transport Association (FTA), have said the government should plough revenues generated from a planned lane rental scheme back into maintaining the road network.
The government has announced plans to roll-out the lane rental scheme on UK roads in late 2019 after recent trails in the south-east led to a significant drop in congestion. Under the scheme, utility companies are charged up to £2,500 a day for digging up the busiest roads at peak times.
Transport Minister Jo Johnson said: “Lane rental has seen a massive drop in disruption to drivers as utility companies have changed when and where they carry out work.”
In the London trail, utility companies have worked together more than 600 times since lane rental was introduced in 2015, up from 100 beforehand.
“Congestion costs the UK economy £9 billion a year,” said RHA Chief Executive, Richard Burnett. “So the Government, councils and highways authorities need to think creatively about how to tackle it.
“The road network is clogged-up and in a poor state of repair, and has suffered as a result of continual under-investment and short-term thinking. We urge authorities to reinvest all surplus lane rental revenues in high-quality road improvement schemes to help make the network fit for purpose.”
However, the RHA said the scheme has significantly increased utility companies’ operating costs in the pilot scheme areas which is a worrying development as some companies have delayed planned works.
“DfT reports that some utility companies have waited until infrastructure has needed repairing to avoid incurring the extra costs as emergency works don’t incur charges,” Richard Burnett continued. “This isn’t a good sign and certainly flies against the move to encourage contractors to plan and synchronise their work schedules to reduce disruption to road users; so this needs managing very carefully. The last thing we need is more unplanned roadworks.”
Echoing the RHA’s concerns, the Freight Transport Association’s Head of Road Network Management Policy, Malcolm Bingham, said: “FTA is concerned about congestion on our roads, as hold-ups are a constant challenge for freight companies trying to move goods around the country.
"It is important though, that any revenue raised by extending the lane rental scheme is invested back into maintaining and improving the road network for all road users.
“We would also urge the Department for Transport to closely monitor the scheme as it is rolled-out, to review any impact it might have on the scheduling of repairs and maintenance to other key infrastructure.”
The Department for Transport said it will produce guidance in the autumn to help councils develop lane rental schemes for approval with the first schemes scheduled for roll out at the end of 2019.
Posted on: February 16th 2018