Drive to speed up roadworks
Published: Friday 27th January 12
Council leader Ravi Govindia has welcomed a new scheme that aims to minimise the disruption caused to Londoners by roadworks.
The Department for Transport has signalled its backing for a change in the law that would levy new charges on utility companies that dig up busy roads at peak time periods. Gas and water companies would be charged less if they did the work overnight or at off-peak times.
The change would affect most red routes in the capital, which are managed by Transport for London and come under the control of the Mayor of London.
The problems caused by roadworks was at the centre of discussions between Cllr Govindia and Deputy Mayor Isabel Dedring, who has special responsibility for transport across London, when she visited Wandsworth on Wednesday.
Cllr Govindia was able to highlight some of the steps the council has already put in place to try and reduce hold ups caused by utility company roadworks.
These include lobbying TfL to alter traffic light timings near roadworks to improve the flow of vehicles, encouraging night time working where this is possible, instructing contractors to cease their works during peak times and covering their excavations with special steel plates to allow traffic to pass over it.
The council also issues advance publicity to advise motorists that their may face delays and insists on the utility companies using dot matrix warning signs on all approaches so that drivers can switch to alternative routes.
And if the utilities take too long to finish their projects, they can also be fined. Over the last twelve months Wandsworth Council levied fines totalling more than £150,000 from these companies because of unreasonable delays in finishing their works.
Cllr Govindia said: "The vast majority of roadworks are unavoidable, especially if the utilities are dealing with gas leaks or burst water mains. However it is important that these jobs are completed as quickly as possible and cause the minimum amount of disruption to road users.
"Whenever a company wants to dig up a main road or an important junction we would always try to persuade them to do their work overnight or confine it to off-peak times if this is possible.
Unfortunately, though this is not always possible. There can be important logistical and safety reasons why night time working is not the answer, and it may also be ruled out if the works would be too noisy for people living nearby.
"What we can do though in these cases is insist that the companies do all they can to alleviate the disruption and to finish what needs to be done without any delays.
"These new powers will mean that on London's red route network at least, a much stronger economic inducement will be offered to the utilities to undertake their works during off peak hours and so reduce the level of disruption they cause to drivers, bus passengers, cyclists and businesses."