Roadworks are an unfortunate but necessary part of modern life; traffic volume has increased to record levels year-on-year – estimates say that we travelled 324.3 billion miles last year, and building future-proof infrastructure all adds up to the £4.3 billion cost to the UK’s economy.
We’ve discussed lane rental schemes before, but a new report by Ecorys, working in conjunction with the government, has suggested that these schemes are working, and could significantly cut down on roadwork delays – by as much as three days.
However, a separate report estimates that the time to clear the carriageway maintenance backlog would be fourteen years, and with more than half of any local authority’s maintenance budget spent on structural maintenance, our road network isn’t going to improve anytime soon.
More councils to adopt
Currently, around 65% of all UK authorities use a permit scheme for contractors; the contractor applies for the permit as part of the tendering process, and this could cost as much as £2,500 per day for the permit, but operating at off-peak times would reduce that cost, and there is the added incentive to finish sooner.
As we spoke about before, lane rental schemes are being adopted alongside the permit scheme, so contractors who work during peak times can be charged for use of the lane or very busy road, to encourage after-hours work or during quieter times to ease disruption.
Roads Minister, Jesse Norman has said that permit schemes such as this have been proven to cut down on the time taken for the works, meaning fewer disruptions and a reduced burden on the economy, the government will be encouraging the last 35% of local authorities to introduce such schemes in a bid to lessen the disruption to the motorist. Plans are also being looked at to encourage the contractors to work under pavements rather than roads, in a further bid to keep the country moving.
Conflict of interest
Despite the Government telling us that these new permit schemes will reduce overall roadwork congestion, there does seem to be a conflict of interest that hasn’t yet been cleared up.
Currently, road repairs/maintenance and improvements are covered through a combination of Government money, street or highways authority, this accounts for around 55% of all roadworks. Any further works such as a utility company wanting to lay new pipes/cables will be subject to the permit; about 45% of all roadworks.
Third-party contractors working on behalf of the authority may not be subject to the permits, meaning there will be no discernible improvement, and should the Government insist on all contractors (including those sub-contracting to the authority) being part of the permit scheme, this will surely mean an increase in road-repair cost, which is of course, tax-payer funded.
Roadworks – the scourge of modern society
Since 2015, there has been a 21% increase (average) in roadworks, and at least one third of all car journeys are affected by them, so it comes as no surprise that the Government are trying to ease congestion, along with the permit scheme, there is talk of raising the speed limit through roadworks from 50 mph to 60 mph and limiting the length of motorway works.
This can only be good news for the motorist, but both of these planned measures aren’t without drawbacks; around 20% of roadworkers have suffered an injury whilst at work, with 54% reporting near misses with vehicles, and the cost to continually prepare, setup and breakdown roadworks is phenomenal – widening a 51-mile stretch of the M6 costs around £1,000 per inch currently, an increase in setup costs could double that figure.
Over 100 billion vehicle miles are affected by roadworks, and when you’re stuck in them, it feels like you’re in them for exactly that length, but there are a number of resources that can help you figure out where roadworks are happening or planned to happen, some even give you estimated time of delay.
If it’s a daily commute, you’ll know where they are, possibly how to avoid them, and what extra time to allow for, but if you’re planning on heading somewhere new, you should look at sites such as roadworks.org for up to the minute information. Alternatively, many navigation systems have this feature built-in, but learning to trust it can be a new experience.
Despite the raft of new ideas or legislation, traffic is on the increase – motorway traffic alone has increased 44.1% in the last 20 years and is set to rise a further 2% each year, this means that road maintenance or upgrading will be a constant process, perhaps learning to live with traffic is the only viable solution.
According to studies from GoCompare, the average motorist spent 31 hours stuck in traffic in 2017. Cutting down the roadworks would greatly help to reduce this number and help free up time for other things, like spending time with family.
How long does your daily commute take? Can you see a better way of speeding up road repairs? Would you pay extra to have a roadwork-free journey to work? Let us know in the comments.
In this day and age utiliy companies should be forced by law to create proper ducting systems!
Thus avoiding digging up roads.
BT have them, and still will not allow anyone else to use them, which is totally ridiculous!
This should also be stopped!!
For shared utilities, BT can’t let power cables through their unless there is another duct adjoining, such as a twin or quad duct. If power cables went in the phone line duct, the electric would interfere with the phone signals and there’d be no phone capabilities. There must be a gap between phone and power cables.
Couldn’t have sewers in the same duct as water distribution mains either
utility services are generally appalling. Low tendering means they get the job with a low. I’d and then can’t afford to do a good job nor check that it is done properly. and councils who have given work to a contractor in this way certainly haven’t got the money to send out standards checkers. system is bound to fail because it encourages bad workmanship.
Sorry buddy but bt don’t have the ducts openreach do as they have been separated from bt by popular demand of other telephone providers backed by the regulators.
Openreach also have to rent out their cable space to other telephone providers whereas it is not a requirement for the likes of virgin to have a reciprocal agreement where they have the cables in the ground.
It is annoying enough that the need sot be roadworks due to lack of maintenance over the last 30 years. However, it is necessary. But I do have one question. When there are roadworks, and the staff go away for the weekend, and there is an opportunity to remove the cones to allow two way traffic flow, why don’t some do it? I have waited at lights where there are no holes or anything on the highway, but cones cone off the tarmac, traffic lights each end – all weekend.
A hilariously annoying one was last weekend where I live, all weekend cones on the road but the hole was on the pavement, 2m from the road. why leave the cones out when there is no need.
This is something needs to be considered in the risk assessment.
So very, very common. I’m always ringing my local council about “phantom” roadworks.
Just a couple of weeks ago near a local X roads I came across some temp lights around a small area where a bit of tarmac had been cut out. From the Thursday to the following Mon morning I must have passed 7 or 8 times, at different times of the day, and not once did I see any workmen in attendance. Then Mon afternoon at was all gone.
Now, not exactly “phantom” works, but all weekend to finish what appeared to be no more than a couple of hours work?
It’s a joke. These companies should be subject to same kind of fines imposed on rail companies that over run works.
It’s because the traffic management is generally done by a third party who charge a large fee for set up and take down of the cones/ lights etc but a much lower cost for daily rental of the same, subsequently removing the equipment will incur further costs to the project – and remember ultimately it’s the bill payer (whether utility or Council Tax) who pays for these costs.
There are times when an excavation needs to be left open for a period of time when there’s no perceivable work going on – for example there could be a monitor in place or maybe a concrete protective slab needs to harden – so traffic cannot be allowed in to the area for a specific period.
I’m not defending it by the way – we had a similar situation to you with road works in the verge outside my house – traffic needed to be kept to a single lane during working hours for safety but it was totally pointless when the site was shut – annoying enough to complain to both Yorkshire Water and the Council (although neither party seemed particularly bothered…)
If that’s the case the solution seems fairly simple. Make the lane rental significantly dearer than removing and replacing cones and signage.
and why can’t they put in signs well in advance of the roadworks rather than finding out when you actually get to them? A bridge in a local village is closed for a month, the road is one of the main routes to the A1 for many people but there is no mention of the closure until you actually get to it
Overnight roadworks may be better for commuters but it seems impossible to find reliable information. Maybe a board at the side of the road in advance (which you can’t read before you’ve passed it), ‘Road closed here’ – but from where to where??? My Tom-tom Traffic doesn’t know about it, I can’t find info online (only about daytime closures)
Sometimes the notices give very vague dates
http://www.roadworks.org shows almost everything. and even gives indication of disruption.
I still believe, 24hr roadworking, like the highly enlightened, far eastern economies practice, will get the work done at a lower cost to the economy and with less disruption thant the current system.
Any company wishing to carry out road works should be required to fully reinstate the road surface to original condition. Not just do a temporary patch, requiring further work and further delays, not to mention further cost for the taxpayer.
You are quite right but often the only way this can be done is by a complete road closure for a number of days. Good luck trying this on a busy city bus route. Your local authority may have a view.
Maybe the tarmackers could take a leaf out of the people who resurface airport runways. They can do a 100 yards in around 4 hours, laying 3 lots of tarmac to a depth which will take the weight of a jumbo jet(around 180 tons empty) As the maximum weight in the UK is 44 tons and the depth does not need to be as great I would suggest that at worst they should be able to do at least 200 yards in a day, if not more. All it takes is good project management. I am sure that most people would put up with a road closure for a day or two if it got rid of the potholes – I know I would
If utility companies are paying to resurface the road then the bill payer picks up this cost – someone has to pay and ultimately that means us whether it’s through our taxes or our household bills. Tarmac highways should be resurfaced at least every 10 years (resurfaced not surface dressed), in an ideal world every 7 years. At present the average frequency for a road to be resurfaced in England is once every 54 years. Repair patches tend to fall apart around the outside where they meet what should be sound carriageway. The necessity for ongoing resurfacing and maintenance should be accounted for in the initial costs and lifetime budgets for highways but everything is done short-term in the UK. Expecting the local water company or telecoms provider to pick up the bill for decades of neglect by the Local Authority is probably what the Local Authority was counting on…
There would be less roadworks if councils had to sign-off the quality of utility company repairs. It is to the sub-contractors advantage to do a poor job so they get paid to come back again when the surface fails later.
I agree, many of the repairs are due to a poor standard of work in the first place. not all utility services either. A lot of work carried out by the County Council is quite poor. In the village I live the CC installed with direct labour, a drainage system to prevent some localised flooding. Drainage system works fine, but the same CC have to repair many of the drain surrounds EVERY year for the last 20 years.
Road would be closed for days/weeks waiting for sign off.
our council seem to sign off work without even inspecting it. Happened recently near my parents’ home, took weeks to sort out, many phone calls and the involvement of their local councillor
It’s about time they thought about the motorists who are the customers and pay for the work (via taxes). Less disruption would come from working more hours (except in bad weather) – say a 2 shift system during the lighter months and extended hours at other times. Also having enough equipment and workers to get the job done speedily – how often at a very long length of roadworks do you see only 1 team of men and equipment? Even then much is often idle. Tackle the job at both ends and in the middle – gear the payment structure to make it beneficial to work this way.
50mph (or less) restrictions for mile upon mile upon mile is so frustrating, demoralising and wasteful, particularly when it appears the work has been completed along 95% of the length or when there’s nobody working (ie most evenings/nights and weekends). During these time they should normally be forced to cover up the restrictions. I cannot get my head around about driving along a 3 lane motorway where there’s a 50mph limit, particluarly ‘out of hours’ onto a side ‘A’ road where you can speed up to 60mph and have another vehicle coming towards you at that speed with just a white line separating them. Where’s the safety logic in that?
Ensure there is far more co-ordination between those controlling the speed/signs and what is actually needed. Far too often the signs (or cones) are left well after a job or incident or in place well before a job. The patrol police as well as those ‘at base’ viewing the camera pictures of flow etc have a role to play here as well as fining contractors for misleading signs and unnecessary restrictions. It’s at a stage now when many, understandably, ignore the warning message or constraint – have they never heard of ‘cry wolf’?
modern trend seems to be to just close the road, OK for locals but a nightmare for strangers to the area. Some may put up a diversion sign just to divert you away, not to guide you. They could save money with signs that have just 2 letters instead of 9.
Of course there will always be the unavoidable ‘Emergency’ works that have to be done immediately such as burst water pipes, gas leaks, electrical cable faults, sewer collapses etc. They cannot be planned for so not practicable to apply for a permit or even to estimate how long it will take to fix.
It should now be possible to use the full force of technology to help make charges proportionate. Google gleefully tells my when my journey might take longer than usual. This same information can be used to quantify the delay from each set of roadworks. In this way the small local roads where only a couple of people get delayed can be ignored, but the pointless coning off of an important commuter route can attract a serious charge – sufficient to make any cone-clearing contractors buck their ideas up.
(Other satnav providers are available…)
The first job on any roadworks appears to be put the cones out and the very last to remove them. There are often long spells in between where very little happens and road crews seldom open the road when they knock off for the weekend even if the only thing stopping use is cones and signage.
Travelled up the A1(M)/A1 last Monday. Three sets of roadworks northbound. Each advertised a lane closure with distance signs and speed limit – and the lane closure never happened. If I had got out and tipped the signs on their fronts I am sure I would have been prosecuted for something, but these contractors can leave it all behind and get away with it
I HAVE TO USE A CAR as I work for the NHS and have to do home visits or the elderly would get no care, but increasingly I spend more and more time trying (please note Trying) to get from one client to another in the chaos of Dorsets roads. 8-9 am and 245 until 330 pm are the worst times, with the precious wannabe parents in their 4x4s. I would zigzag every school for a mile in every direction!
The roads are a total nightmare and quite frankly I am thinking seriously of quitting my job because it is such a nightmare and this is a reality with lots of my colleagues. My Job is becoming untenable due to high stress levels as a result of town planners and the idiots who think poorly used buses are a priority.
I can see we need to reduce car usage, share cars and what a difference a school holiday makes in the mornings. So stop cars parking within a mile of the school, FORCE parents to walk their children to school or use cycles.
Stop sloppy road repairs, police the road repairs and ensure a timely job is done. It really is not rocket science or is it.
If something is not done, more and more people who use the roads for their work will leave, communities will lose health workers who are fed up with the rat race and would rather cycle to the nearest cafe and work behind the till. IT is what I am looking for, because I cannot carry on with this pressure, of having to see x number of patients, with the equipment I need to carry, making a bike impossible -plus the distance. I do not need to fight my way through traffic cones, stupid school run traffic and rush hours, in order to do what is already a stressful job.