Headlines: April 1st, 2008

Local authorities have new powers from today to get tough with utility companies that cause traffic congestion and disruption for local people and businesses through over running road works. According to the Local Government Association council transport staff will use the powers to manager where and when works take place.

From today, changes to the Traffic Management Act mean that gas, electricity and water companies will need to apply to local authorities for a permit before they can start work. Councils will be able to charge them if they breach any conditions that form part of the permit or if they take longer than agreed to complete the works. The system will also mean that utilities will have to give councils three months notice before they intend to begin roadworks.

Figures from the LGA show that gas, electricity and water companies dug more than two million trenches last year, equivalent to one for every 200 yards of local authority road. David Sparks, the transport spokesman for the LGA, said the utility companies had for too long had a free hand to dig holes with little consideration for the congestion and disruption they caused. There was also a cost to council taxpayers when authorities were left to clear up after the utilities had moved on.

“Councils are responsible for nine out of every ten miles of roads in the country and need to be able to take back control of the roads. Authorities will use the new permits to crackdown on utility companies and manage when and where road works are carried out,” Councillor Sparks warned.