Headlines: August 16th, 2001

The Government is to allow local councils to charge utility companies when they irritate travellers by digging up roads and pavements.Two councils are to be allowed to charge companies ‘rent’ while the road is unusable by its usual traffic.

Under trial schemes to be launched in Camden in London, and in Middlesbrough, gas, water, electricity and cable companies will face a daily charge of up to £500 each time they dig up the road to install or maintain their equipment. Councils will be allowed to keep the money raised through these charges.

The new power goes beyond that already granted earlier this year allowing councils to charge companies a daily fee when work overruns an agreed deadline.

No decision has been taken on extending these pilots nationally – the tests are being conducted as a wake-up call to the utilities to be efficient in their road digging.

The Transport Act 2000 gave the Secretary of State powers to charge utilities a daily rate for using the roads to service or repair their pipes and wires.

There will be consultation ahead of the schemes starting, which is expected at the beginning of 2002.

The consultation paperwork is found at www.roads.dtlr.gov.uk/conindex.htm   and comments should be in by October of this year.