Comment: Making street works work

Clive Bairsto

Street works policy is facing unprecedented levels of change. Over the last 12 months there have been a significant number of government initiatives introduced, with the intention of reducing the impact of street works on road users.

This week the Government set out the next steps in relation to two key initiatives: the approach to how local authorities can introduce lane rental schemes; and the announcement of Street Manager, a new digital tool to support the planning of street works.

Lane rental schemes

This week’s publication of the criteria and guidance for local authorities wanting to establish a lane rental scheme is a welcome step forward. This provides clarity for how such schemes will operate, and gives some certainty to the utilities sector that the right safeguards are in place to ensure they are used effectively.

Concerns with the concept of lane rental schemes remain. There is a worry it will add an extra layer of complexity on top of the myriad schemes that are currently in place and that it could inhibit the roll-out of major infrastructure schemes.

Fundamentally, lane rental does not provide any tools that do not already exist. Highway authorities already possess the powers, and the duty, to co-ordinate and manage street works effectively.

Despite these concerns, industry will want to work with government and local authorities to ensure that the implementation of lane rental schemes is a success. The guidance provides a positive framework that sets out the right checks and balances to ensure that these schemes are not used inappropriately. While this is not statutory, it makes clear what government expects of local authorities before it approves a scheme.

The process that the Department for Transport (DfT) has set out is rigorous and broadly provides reassurance to the industry. The reiteration that lane rental should only apply to up to 5% of an authority’s road network and the parity that will be provided by lane rental schemes applying to all works including local authority works are both important and welcome.

Similarly by requiring that charges only apply at certain times of the day, utilities and their contractor partners are given the opportunity – and the incentive – to work at off peak times.

However, there remains a concern that the warm words on ensuring lane rental schemes take consideration of nationally important infrastructure projects are not accompanied by the detail that our members require. While there is a clear exemption for HS2 works, detailed information on how works relating to electric vehicle charging points or broadband roll-out will be taken into account are missing.

The industry urgently needs greater clarity from DfT to ensure that this does not negatively impact on major productivity-enhancing works.

Street Manager: digitising the planning of street works

The Street Manager project has the potential to revolutionise how works are planned and delivered across the UK. A new digital system can take advantage of new and existing technologies to allow members of the public to best understand upcoming works, and to adapt their journeys as a result. Our members want to ensure that the public are as informed as possible and able to avoid disruption where they can.

We’re delighted to have been working closely with the DfT and the project team to feed into the process, and we’re committed to continuing to provide this support to ensure that the project is a success. For the system to work most effectively it will be essential that it is aligned with, and reflects, the systems and processes that our members have in place.

To have the impact that government is looking for, the new software needs to be mandatory for both utilities and highways. While there should be a transition period in place, and sufficient notice to allow for the switch, relying on voluntary uptake will not deliver the necessary benefits. Consideration needs to be given to how all participants can be required to migrate to the new system.

A time of change for street works policy

Both these initiatives have the potential to improve how street works are delivered, if implemented in the right way.

At the same time as these policy initiatives are being introduced the demands on the industry are growing. The importance of street works is becoming increasingly recognised by policymakers. For government to achieve its policy objectives in relation to building the homes that Britain needs, delivering the superfast broadband to improve productivity and rolling out electric vehicle charging points to reduce emissions, street works are essential.

Achieving these ambitions while also reducing disruption for road users is may be difficult, but is certainly possible. There is no fundamental inconsistency between these aims, but it will require industry, government and local authorities to work closely in partnership and for changes to be carefully implemented. As an industry, we’re fully committed to doing our bit to make these initiatives a success.

Clive Bairsto is chief executive of Street works UK, the only trade association representing utilities and their contractors on street works issues. It promotes best practice, self regulation and a two-way relationship with government and other relevant stakeholders. Street Works UK is also the utility arm of the Highway Authorities and Utilities Committee (HAUC(UK)), working collaboratively with roads / local authorities and national and regional governments to drive up standards of road and street works in Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue


Highways Awards 2021 finalists revealed

Harris leads National Highways into new era

View the latest issue

Highways jobs

Street Works Co-ordinator

£21,153 - £23,791
Do you want to make a difference to how Street Works are managed within Lincolnshire? Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Principal Transport Planning Officer

£44,863 - £46,845. In addition, re-location expenses may also be paid.
This is an exciting opportunity to join the Strategic Transport Planning Team at Gloucestershire County Council (GCC). Gloucester, Gloucestershire
Recruiter: Gloucestershire County Council

Group Engineer - Highways Network Management

£40,876 - £45,859 Plus market rate supplement of £3,000, reviewed annually
We are looking for a Group Engineer who will support the recovery from the pandemic. Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Group Engineer - Safety Design

£40,876 - £45,859 Plus market rate supplement of £3,000, reviewed annually
We are looking for an experienced engineer to join our Highways Safety Design team. Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways Asset Management Engineer

£30,451 - £32,234 per annum
The post holder will... Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Senior Traffic Engineer

£32,910 - £35,745 per annum
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Highway Network Management Team to... Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Traffic Signals Engineer

£25,991 - £35,745
An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Technician/Engineer to join the Traffic Signals Systems & Operations (TSSO) team as a Career Grade Engineer. Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Transport and Procurement Manager

£48,194 - £52,980 per annum
Are you a Transport Manager looking for a role that is a break from the norm? Andover, Hampshire
Recruiter: Test Valley Borough Council

Traffic Engineers (Highway Design and Asset Management)

£32,910 – £35,745 per annum - fixed term for 5 years
We are looking for highly motivated and enthusiastic people to join our Traffic Engineering team. Halifax, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

Street Lighting Design Engineer

£18,812 - £35,745
This is an exciting opportunity for you to join Lincolnshire County Council's Street Lighting Team as a Street Lighting Design Engineer. Lincoln, Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Project Engineers

£36,922 per annum (Grade H-I)
West Berkshire Council are looking for innovative, enthusiastic and focused Project Engineers. Newbury, Berkshire
Recruiter: West Berkshire Council

Charge Hand (Highways)

£24,943 to £27,067 per annum
We are looking for motivated individuals who are willing to contribute to the team’s growth and success. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Principal Highways Drainage Engineer

£32,910 - £35,745 per annum
Do you want to take a leading role maintaining a large network of assets? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Cleaner Streets and Waste Contract Manager - Communities

£48,809 - £49,794 per annum
Responsible for managing the street cleansing, household waste collections services and community recycling centres Bridgend (Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr)
Recruiter: Bridgend County Borough Council

Senior Engineer Flood & Drainage

£40,876 - £45,859
We make a difference to the environment we live in. Come and help us manage our blue infrastructure. Bracknell, Berkshire
Recruiter: Bracknell Forest Borough Council

Business Support Officer – Passenger Transport

£20,092 - £21,748
You will assist the wider team in ensuring the office functions are delivered in a timely and accurate manner. Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Senior Engineer

£31,339 to £35,754 per annum
We are looking for enthusiastic and motivated individuals who are willing to contribute to the teams growth and success. York, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of York Council

Waste Collection Operative - Loaders / HGV Drivers (Hays Recruitment)

Competitive Salary
Hays are excited to be working in partnership with Chelmsford City Council who are always looking to expand their teams and are looking for... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Video