The Department for Transport have today launched a 12-week consultation on a proposed “lane rental” scheme, where utilities companies would charged for digging up the road.
Transport for London will tomorrow begin their consultation on whether we should have this in London.
When lane rental was piloted in Camden and Middlesborough in 2002-04, it was concluded that it had little effect on the amount of time companies spent digging up the roads.
The scheme currently being proposed by the government is quite different to the previous one. The 2004 pilot applied one charge to all streets at all times. The scheme the government are currently proposing will only charge at times which cause the most disruption.
This, we are told, will provide an incentive for companies to carry out works at less inconvenient times.
Inconvenient for who?
This all sounds somewhat sensible. But where will this actually apply?
The streets where evidence shows that works in the highway cause the highest levels of disruption and thus require the greatest efforts to smooth traffic flow.
This is a phrase straight out of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and demonstrates the extent to which TfL have influenced (or written) the national policy here. A google search for “smoothing traffic flow” on TfL’s website produces over 20,000 results:
On the Department for Transport website, three results.
What will lane rental look like?
The DfT guidance tells that “the detailed design of lane rental schemes is best determined at a local level”.
Fortunately for us, TfL have done exactly this. They have produced a map of the “most congested” areas in London.
These Congestion Management Areas are where lane rental will apply – as explained to the Surface Transport Panel in May 2011.
And how is this measured? By counting delays on roads, to motor traffic. Doesn’t include pedestrians. Doesn’t include people on bicycles.
This means that – despite the fact that Blackfriars Bridge is actually a designated Congestion Management Area – the following will still be acceptable:
Closing a footpath rather than a “lane” will be encouraged under lane rental:
If Transport for London want to prevent delay and disruption to journey times, great.
But once again they continue to define “disruption” and “delay” as only counting when it affects people in motor vehicles. This simply creates an incentive for people to use cars over other forms of transport – which apart from anything else will actually cause more delays.
The fact that TfL has managed to influence the national policy here is all the more concerning.