Headlines: March 5th, 2002

Two pilot schemes allowing local authorities to charge utility companies ‘lane rental’ when they dig up roads have begun in Middlesborough and Camden, using new powers made available by DTLR.Gas, water, electricity and cable companies will face a daily lane rental charge of up to 650 pounds each time they dig up the road to install or maintain equipment. Councils will be allowed to keep the money raised through these charges and spend it on transport projects.

The schemes come on top of recent measures which allow councils to charge utility companies only after roadworks over-run their expected schedule. More than 100 councils now operate these over-run charges.

The new charges are designed not just to avoid over-runs, but to encourage all work to be carried out as quickly as possible to minimise the nuisance to drivers, pedestrians and residents.

If the schemes work, there is the potential for national roll-out, though utility companies are attempting to head off this threat by operating to voluntary codes of practice.

Copies of Middlesborough and Camden’s lane rental schemes, including details of the level of charges and a list of affected roads – are available on the DTLR web site at www.street-works.dtlr.gov.uk/lanerent/index.htm.   In both council areas the highest charges will be applied to “remedial works”, where companies have to carry out further work to put right earlier work which was not up to the required standards.