Kent County Council has launched a scheme that aims to reduce congestion on the county’s busiest roads.
Under the new Kent lane rental scheme, companies will now be charged up to £2,000 per day for the inconvenience caused by digging up the busiest roads on the network at peak times.
Kent is the first county council in the country to run the scheme, which aims to push utility contractors to work on the roads during the night and at off-peak times or to use techniques such as tunnelling more often to avoid closing the road altogether.
The scheme covers more than 465 roads in Kent in the areas most susceptible to major roadwork disruption. Revenue generated from the scheme will be invested in further work to cut congestion in Kent.
David Brazier, Kent County Council cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “We are committed to keeping all of our roads, especially the busiest routes, moving in Kent. This proves difficult when companies decide to carry out their road works on our most heavily used roads during rush hour times.
“The Kent lane rental scheme forces companies to really think about the scale and duration of works on our key routes, or face a sizeable charge for the disruption they cause for Kent’s travelling public.
“It is the perfect way to keep our network of roads as clear as possible and get drivers to where they need to be as quickly as possible.”
The scheme has also won the backing of Transport Minister Norman Baker.
He added: “I am pleased that Kent’s lane rental scheme is now active. It provides a strong incentive to those carrying out road works on the busiest networks to make sure they complete improvements or repairs on time. This will help minimise disruption and congestion, but also provide a better service to drivers, cyclists and passengers.
Mark Ostheimer, operations director of the National Joint Utilities Group, said:
“Whilst NJUG is yet to be convinced that lane rental will deliver substantial additional benefits over and above the existing legislation already available, we believe that Kent County Council’s approach takes a sophisticated look at using lane rental in a targeted way, balancing the need to reduce the unfortunate disruption which sometime arises from both utility and authority essential street works, with the need to invest in essential utility services and the road network, and not unnecessarily increasing consumers’ and ratepayers bills.”
A 12-week trial of the scheme began in March after it was given the go ahead to commence by the Secretary of State for Transport, Patrick McLoughlin. Companies began incurring fines from 28 May 2013 when the scheme came into full force.