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Utility companies could face daily charges to close roads

May 16, 2012 1:49 PM

Utility companies could be charged a daily fee for road closures while they carry out work across Cambridgeshire.

The idea has been put forward by Liberal Democrat Councillor Sarah Whitebread and would apply to companies laying new gas or water mains or carrying out similar work in the county.

Cllr Whitebread, who represents Cambridge's Market Ward on Cambridgeshire County Council, claims the move could prevent lengthy closures such as the one which brought the city's East Road to a virtual halt for weeks while new gas mains were laid.

She made her suggestion during Question Time at the county council meeting today (Tuesday, May 15) and it was agreed to look into such a scheme.

A similar idea, approved by the Department of Transport, will allow Transport for London to charge companies in the capital up to £2,500 a day for closing major roads. Companies will face lower charges if they carry out work outside of peak times.

"The county system at the moment has no incentive for speedy work, or to encourage work outside peak times" said Cllr Whitebread. "Given the frequency with which utilities companies need to carry out road works in Cambridge, I think a charging scheme of this type needs serious consideration.

"I also pushed the council to look at ways to encourage utility companies, when carrying out works, to keep roads open for cyclists. Often there is road space around the works that could be made available, but instead cyclists told to wait with cars or dismount and walk. In a city where so many people travel to school and work by bike, this clearly needs addressing."

The county council's Cabinet Member for Community Infrastructure, Tony Orgee, agreed to look into such a scheme.