No-show roadworks could lead to fines

The roadworks are taking place between the Playford Road and Bent Lane junctions

The roadworks are taking place between the Playford Road and Bent Lane junctions - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

Councils and utility companies are today examining government proposals to fine anyone who starts roadworks but leaves road restrictions in place while nothing is being done – especially at weekends.

Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin is planning to charge highways authorities or utility companies £5,000 a day if A-roads are left dug up without any work going on.

Engineers who leave roadworks in place for a whole weekend without any work taking place could be liable for a £10,000 fine.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council, which has a contract with Kier MG to maintain non-trunk roads, said officials were still looking to see what the effects of the proposed fines may be.

He said everyone in the department responsible for highways was aware of how frustrating it could be to be slowed down by roadworks where no-one was working.

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However, it might be that the cost of paying a significant number of engineers overtime to work at weekends could be more expensive than the potential £5,000 a day fine.

He said: “Whenever Suffolk Highways undertakes any planned roadworks across the county, it seeks to ensure the impact on local traffic arrangements is reduced as much as possible. This is often done by working during off-peak hours at weekends and overnight and combinations of all of these, linked to the urgency of the work in hand.

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“This new proposal only applies to ‘A’ roads. A current example of how Suffolk Highways strives to minimise impact is the drainage works underway on the A1214 at the Bell Lane junction in Kesgrave where night working is being employed.

“It is often more appropriate to undertake work over the weekend, particularly at locations that experience heavy week-day traffic.

“It is important to note that, just because the roadworks may appear unattended, there will generally be a good reason for this – such as contractors may have gone to collect materials, be waiting for materials to set (particularly concrete) or the works gang has finished its work and has moved to another site with a separate traffic management gang assigned the task of removing all signs and barriers.

“Equally, when an emergency occurs, workers can be called from other sites to attend, having left their original works locations in a condition that is safe for the public.”

A spokeswoman for UK Power Networks, which can dig into roads to ensure the electricity supply is maintained, said they were aware of the statement and were reading the details to find out how it might affect them.

Mr McLoughlin said: “Roadworks can be essential but that doesn’t mean they should be in place any longer than necessary.

“That is why I am looking at proposals to reduce queues and make drivers’ lives easier. These commonsense measures will be a welcome relief to those trying to get from A to B on our local roads.”

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “The road network is used relentlessly 24/7 and every one of the two million sets of roadworks carried out annually to repair pipes and lay cables causes disruption. Anything that can be done to keep the tailbacks to a minimum will be welcomed by Britain’s 37million motorists.”

But Peter Box, from the Local Government Association, warned that the proposals could lead to workers being paid to “watch concrete dry”. He said: “Councils want to do everything they can to help motorists and minimise disruption to their journeys.”

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