Road Works

AA members call for realistic penalities

15 October 2009

Nearly three-quarters of AA members want a crackdown on companies who break the rules when they dig up the streets, AA Public Affairs Head Paul Watters will tell today's street works summit in Birmingham today (15), convened by Transport Minister Sadiq Khan MP.

The AA estimates that there are three million utility works carried out every year by more than 200 companies.

Companies that dig up the roads should pay realistic penalties if they undertake work without permission or breach working conditions. Tough action demanded by drivers in an AA/Populus survey includes 43% saying that firms which dug up the roads without permission should be fined a percentage of their annual turnover. Another 30% said fines over £20,000 were appropriate.

The Minister is expected to announce a big increase in the level of fines today.

Watters will also tell the summit that uncoordinated street works can be bad for the environment as vehicles are often and needlessly left idling their engines. AA studies showed that 1,000 cars stationary at road works create 28.32kg of unnecessary CO2 each minute, and that excludes larger vehicles which can emit much more CO2. Road work delays can also lead to road rage, leading to increased risk of accidents and bad driving because of the frustration. This increases rat-running and abuse of some traffic regulations.

"The AA welcomes the government's desire to tackle the problem of street works and believes that tougher penalties must be introduced and used by more highway authorities who have duties under the Traffic Management Act to facilitate the efficient movement of road users," says Watters.

"A new culture and relationship is needed between those who are responsible for the roads, those who dig up the roads and the road users themselves. We shouldn't have to use the law in an ideal situation but clearly at the moment some muscle has to be exerted to bring order. Hopefully, a fresh approach will emerge."

The AA would like to see many more highway authorities, like Kent and London, use the legal powers available to them under street works legislation. It also welcomes Kent and London's decision to try permit schemes and wants some new thinking and innovation. For example, there could be greater use of trenchless technology and independent no-holds-barred 'trouble shooters' who can stop unauthorised and unduly disruptive work instantly.

Join the discussion in the AA zone


15 October 2009