Utility firms could face ‘lane rental’ charges for roadworks

Utilities firms might have to start renting lane space before they can begin roadworks. Picture: Callum Bennetts
Utilities firms might have to start renting lane space before they can begin roadworks. Picture: Callum Bennetts
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UTILITY companies could be forced to “rent” the stretches of road they want to dig up in the Capital under new plans to minimise disruption and delays.

City transport and environment convener Lesley Hinds said people were frustrated when they found themselves stuck in traffic because of lane closures when there was no work taking place.

And she said charging gas, water, electricity and telecom companies for the time they had parts of a road coned off would act as an incentive to get the job done quickly and avoid unnecessary delays for road-users. Some local authorities in England already use the “lane rental” system, but there is no legislation allowing it in Scotland.

Councillor Hinds said: “We want to look at what’s happening in England, how it’s working there, and then approach the Scottish Government to see whether we could look at it for Scotland.

“The utility companies won’t like it, but if you’re a member of the public and you’re on the bus or in your car and you see a lane cut off and you’re being delayed but no work is being done it’s really frustrating.”

In London lane rental was found to reduce serious disruption due to roadworks by 42 per cent.

The Transport for London lane rental scheme was introduced in 2012 when Boris Johnson was Mayor and created financial incentives for utility companies to shift roadworks out of the busiest times at the busiest locations.

The scheme applied a daily charge for occupation of the most traffic-sensitive streets at traffic-sensitive times.

One estimate said more than 90 per cent of work in lane rental areas was now carried out during quieter periods, massively reducing disruption on the roads.

All surplus money raised through the lane rental scheme is reinvested in other measures to tackle congestion.

Neil Greig, head of policy for the Institute of Advanced Motorists in Scotland, backed the lane rental idea as “a very good idea” to help improve traffic flow in Edinburgh.

He said: “The analysis from London shows it has worked. It has reduced the amount of time the utilities have dug up the road and it doesn’t seem to have added to utility bills or other charges.

“I don’t think it will make much money for the city council – but that’s a good thing because hopefully it makes the companies finish quicker since they don’t want to pay more.

“Lots of things have been tried to improve the way utilities carry out roadworks – better coordination and so on.

“But something like this is a really concrete proposal to provide an incentive to finish the work done in good time and minimise delays for motorists.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com