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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

The government's determination to reduce disruption from roadworks was shown by the fact that it had introduced powers allowing highways authorities to charge utility companies on works not completed by deadline, said DTLR minister Lord Falconer.

It was also piloting powers allowing local authorities to charge lane rental for the duration of the works by utilities and cabling companies.

Conservative Lord Geddes said the Institution of Civil Engineers recently reported that the backlog of essential maintenance work had reached record levels - exceeding£7bn in expenditure, which would take more than eight years to put right -'ignoring any new holes in the road'.

'In the light of the minister's reference to lane rentals and fines, is it not curious that local authorities and highways authorities, which together represent more than 50% of those who make holes in the road, are under no financial strictures?

Fines and lane rentals are paid to local authorities. Who will check up on the authorities themselves?', he asked.

Lord Falconer said lane rentals and charging for overrunning works were designed to improve co-ordination and reduce disruption.

'That gets at some of the offenders. It is important that co-ordination improves and that the government should set out examples of good practice and put pressure on local authorities to improve standards', he added.

The minister agreed with Labour's Lord Dubs that it was frustrating to see so many roadworks where no one was working. He added the problem must be tackled by highlighting the issue and putting more pressure on the local authorities and utilities to do the work as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Lord Bradshaw said bus operators were increasingly being summoned before the traffic commissioners to explain the unreliability of their services. He asked the minister to ensure local authorities were also summoned to explain what they were doing about roadworks and other causes of unreliability, such as traffic congestion.

Lord Falconer replied: 'I share the concern that local authorities are major players in the extent to which roads are disrupted'.

He promised to pass on Lord Bradshaw's suggestion about explaining delays to local bus services.

Hansard 8 May 2002: Column 1140-1142

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