What do the numbers 38, 100 and one billion have in common? They all factor into the cost to London of roadworks with 100 utility companies digging up the roads causing 38% of traffic delays which costs the city £1 billion in economic disruption. It’s rather a lot, especially with the 2012 Olympics bearing down on us bringing its own transport issues.
London mayor Boris Johnson has thrown in his lot with the borough chiefs and other business leaders to get the government to approve a lane rental scheme which aims to incentivise utility companies to complete work faster. Under the proposal, companies wanting to dig up the roads would pay rent for the period of time they’re at work so it’s in their interests to cut down the tea breaks and crack on with digging or face a hefty bill. But why should we make things easier for motorists, we hear you cry, and we refer you back to the first paragraph of this article: £1 billion. So it’s not just about creating crater-free roads to zip about on, but to cut down the wasted time for everyone, from the delayed buses to the missed deliveries to the companies who move out of London. And that’s not to mention the environmental benefit of decreasing emissions caused by congestion.
Under the mayor’s Code of Conduct for Roadworks, utility companies are supposed to provide more information about the reason for any delays, but that doesn’t stop them being delays in the first place and trying to persuade companies to coordinate roadworks has the distinct feeling of herding cats to it. The lane rental scheme could mean those delays disappear as utility companies find themselves handing over their hard-earned profits in rent and fines.
In the mayor’s transport manifesto, he put commuters and improving traffic flow at the top of his list of pledges: ‘Most Londoners would agree that there is nothing more frustrating than driving past a hole in the road with no obvious sign of work taking place. Or seeing the same roads dug up time and again. I will be tougher with utility companies, and I will call for the government to finally give the mayor the power to fine utility companies who cause delays.’ But even Boris admitted earlier this year that it was proving to be a much tougher proposition than he’d anticipated.
So what are they waiting for? The government to start a consultation for one – it was meant to begin in July this year. And as we all know, such things can move slower than, well, a very slow moving thing indeed so to try and give the government a jump start, Boris Johnson is seeking the opinion of Londoners on the www.london.gov.uk website where we can vote in a handy little poll so if you want to see those three numbers at the top looking a lot lower, put your vote in.