Roadwork permit scheme aims for ‘less hassle’ for road users

New powers have been approved that will give Oxfordshire County Council more control over roadworks.

Each year thousands of days-worth of disruption are caused on the roads by repairs and installation of new infrastructure.

From December the council will introduce a new system that means companies wanting to work on roads around Oxfordshire will have to apply and pay for a permit in order to work on the highway.

These will clearly set out how the work will be done, the duration, times of work and how traffic will be managed. When there are clashes between different sets of work the council will also require companies to collaborate more closely to minimise disruption.

Companies that need to work on the roads will benefit from the fact that securing a permit means that they have effectively booked the road space that they need. The permit scheme operates to conditions that are the same across the UK, meaning it will be easier to work consistently across council borders.

While the council will have the power to refuse permission for planned work to take place if it believes the proposed timings or planned approach will cause unnecessary disruption, emergency unplanned work needed for things such as pipe bursts will be unaffected.

Less days of disruption

Until now the county council has had a system of ‘noticing’ which relied on mutual cooperation between anyone needing to work in the road and the council.

Because of this, over-running or badly managed work has been difficult to deal with effectively due to the limited sanctions available to the county council.

Under the new permit scheme, the county council will have greater ability to manage and control works on the highway as well as enhancing the existing relationships with works promoters to the benefit of all involved including the travelling public.

Better for all and less ‘hassle factor’

The council’s highways team hope to achieve:

· A reduction in roadwork duration - removing around 8,900 days of work from Oxfordshire’s roads annually – around a 10% reduction

· Improved quality of works completed and enforcement of failed works.

· Improved coordination and management

· Less ‘hassle factor’ such as additional journey planning and inconvenience from works put on the travelling public.

Powers to step in if things go wrong

County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment, said: “Roadworks are always essential to making sure everyone has water, gas, electricity and broadband supplies while repairs and resurfacing mean that people are able to get around.

“People get frustrated when their journeys are interrupted by road works and, while essential disruption can’t be avoided, we need the powers to step in when things go on too long or aren’t being managed as they should be.

“In the past we have worked quite well with companies and work closely to coordinate roadworks. But when things don’t go to plan our powers have been limited – now we will have incentives for work to be done on time and teeth to take action when it’s not.”

It is expected that income from the permit scheme, around £1m a year, will cover its costs. The scheme will piloted in December with the full scheme, including charges and enforcement, is expected to begin in February 2020.