A joint £1 million fund to research and develop new technology to reduce the disruption caused by road works has been announced by the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond and the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
The money will fund an 18-month project by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to examine innovative engineering techniques which could see utilities use temporary road surfacing methods and fast-setting replacement road surfaces. This would allow utility companies to carry out more work at quieter times and re-open roads during peak traffic periods to reduce delays and disruption.
Funding will be provided equally by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Transport for London (TfL).
Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, said: "Everyone knows how frustrating the delays caused by road works can be, which is why we want utilities and local authorities to be able to make the most of the technology available to help keep disruption to a minimum.
"This project will investigate how innovative engineering can provide greater flexibility and allow more road works to be carried out at times when the travelling public will be least inconvenienced.
"By using technology to its full effect, as well as making sure that local authorities across the country have the powers they need, I hope that we can see fewer needless jams caused by road works."
It was also confirmed that work is progressing at the DfT on drafting regulations that would allow local authorities to run lane rental schemes. The Mayor has asked Transport for London to develop proposals for a targeted lane rental scheme on the capital's busiest roads at peak times. That would incentivise utilities and other companies to carry out road works during the less busy periods of the day to reduce their impact on the travelling public.
Consultation on the new regulations and TfL's proposals for a lane rental scheme will take place over the summer and, if approved, regulations would be in place by the end of the year, allowing the Mayor to apply to have the country's first lane rental scheme up and running in London in the first half of 2012.
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: "Having a lane rental scheme in London will hugely contribute towards clearing unnecessary disruption from the capital's roads. Every company working on our roads wants to do so in the most cost effective way possible and lane rental will give them the clearest incentive to do so. But this is not about penalising utility companies. We want to help them work as efficiently as they can, which is why we will pay for the research of new technology so that they are able to carry out work as swiftly and with as little disruption as possible."
London's Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, said: "I am delighted that London is set to be in a position to introduce a much needed lane rental scheme from early next year, and we continue to actively work with the Mayor and DfT to do so. The funds TfL and the DfT are making available to develop new construction techniques will ultimately contribute towards keeping more roads open during peak times while works are still carried out off-peak and during the night.
"Only 20 per cent of utility road works are currently carried out during off-peak hours on the most congested parts of the Transport for London Road Network, compared to over 70 per cent of TfL's work. By developing these new techniques to enable road works to be done more rapidly, we can make sure that this research meets the needs of all respective industries, and ultimately reduces disruption and congestion on the capital's major roads."