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.

Avoiding roadworks

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.

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