Local authorities want the right to charge utilities companies a daily rate for digging up roads. Pilot schemes in London and Kent have already been successful in tackling disruption.
Councils are demanding new powers to impose levies on companies which make drivers’ lives a misery by digging up busy roads.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has this month called for ministers to make it easier for local authorities to charge lane-rental fees to firms carrying out roadworks.
Incentive to cut disruption
The LGA believes that facing a daily rate will give a much greater incentive for such works to be completed as quickly as possible.
The money raised could then be used to help councils fund other measures aimed at reducing congestion.
LGA transport spokesman, Councillor Peter Box, said: "Councils want to do everything they can to help motorists and small businesses by minimising disruption.
“We have all experienced the boiling frustration of being stuck in rush hour gridlock or had headaches from deafening roadworks nearby.”
‘Towns and cities facing gridlock’
He added: "Many of our towns and cities could face gridlock at rush-hour unless robust and decisive action is taken right now.”
However, Box said, local authorities were being “hamstrung” by a lack of power to deal with the issue.
“Councils know their areas best and should be able to make decisions about traffic locally.
“This means they need the option of being able to introduce lane rental schemes without Secretary of State approval, which is time-consuming and bureaucratic.”
At present, only Transport for London (TfL) and Kent County Council have standing permission to run lane-rental schemes.
The LGA says that the policy has already resulted in big improvements in the capital, with serious disruption due to roadworks falling by almost half in just two years.
The prospect of having to pay extra to make repairs or put right shoddy workmanship has also meant utilities companies have an extra incentive to get it right first time, Box added.
This could also help improve the general condition of Britain’s roads, he said.
£12 billion repair backlog
"The condition of many of our roads is deteriorating while at the same time, more people than ever are using them,” Box explained.
“The country currently has a £12 billion backlog of repairs and one in five roads is classed as being in poor condition.
“While most utility companies are responsible and councils want to work with them, a minority do a poor job.
“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.”
Rise in traffic and delays
New statistics show that congestion is becoming an increasing concern for motorists and policymakers.
The latest figures from the Department for Transport showed that the volume of traffic on UK roads increased by 1.6% in 2015: this is mainly because falls in the price of fuel and a rise in average earnings have made motoring more affordable.
The DfT also found that the average delay experienced by drivers in 2015 was 44.6 seconds per mile, a rise of 5.5% on the previous year.
The LGA’s proposals follow a DfT consultation earlier this year over plans to fine utilities companies which left roadworks unmanned over weekends.
Ministers said they were hoping to introduce fines of up to £5,000 a day for unmanned works on A roads.
Firms would either have to take down works on Friday evening or carry on their operations on Saturday and Sunday to avoid the fines.
The consultation closed in May, but there has so far been no official response or details on whether such measures will be introduced in the near future.
Box added: "With the increasing demand for new and upgraded services and an ageing utility infrastructure there needs to be powerful incentives to ensure utility companies carry out necessary work in the most effective way with the absolute minimum of disruption.
“The lane rental scheme has been proven to provide this for key roads in London and Kent."