Fleet News

Darling asks fleets to help beat congestion

FLEET decision-makers and company car drivers will be in the front line of a new initiative to fight congestion, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has revealed.

Business drivers will be used as a vital early warning system for problems on Britain's major highways, ranging from roadworks to accidents.

A team of traffic managers throughout the country will receive calls from drivers raising the alarm about congestion problems, which they can then deal with using new powers.

Speaking at the RAC Moving Towards 2050 Conference, Darling said: 'Congestion costs jobs and makes people's lives a misery. The Government's role is to help people travel, not stop them. Failure to manage the road space effectively causes dire problems and it can be managed better.

'We need one local point of contact who has the power to keep roads moving. However, normally, the first person to see a problem is not someone from the local authority, but the driver and they could raise awareness of the problem, so it could be sorted out.'

As part of traffic managers' powers, which may need new legislation, utility companies would lose the right to dig up roads whenever they wanted and may be forced to apply for a time-based permit.

Other options could include increased use of renting lanes out for roadworks or more rigorous enforcement of fines for companies that do not finish work within the allotted time. Darling added: 'The future prosperity of this country depends on being able to move people and goods about effectively. Although there will be more electronic communication and homeworking, we will still need to travel for work.

'As part of this, we need a change in culture and approach. A cultural revolution.'

His comments come as the Highways Agency and the police review a new plan aimed at keeping traffic moving following accidents.

The discussions are aimed at combating the growing number of motorway closures, particularly following fatal accidents as police have to treat them as a crime scene.

Under the new arrangement, the police would focus on their core role of law enforcement and dealing with major incidents, but the Highways Agency would have a wider brief to keep traffic moving.

Network management is currently a police responsibility, but involves many non-core tasks which stretches their resources.

Currently the police manage the nationwide network of 32 control offices, but under the new regime the Highways Agency would take over, running seven regional integrated control offices, with police back-up, providing services including incident management and real-time traffic information services.

Exact details of the partnership should be revealed next year.

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