Essential or not, roadworks cause delays and disruption for thousands of motorists every day.
However, rather than digging up road surfaces, many works could be shifted on to pavements to prevent delays and avoid road surfaces becoming further blighted by potholes, The Times has learnt.
New government guidance still being worked out would require utility companies to put new pipes and cables under pavements or grass verges as a default position before resorting to digging up roads.
Potholes are far more likely to appear on sections of roads that have been recently dug up, and transport secretary Chris Grayling believes that tearing up paths instead of roads would cause “much less long-term damage” due to pavements not being exposed to the same heavy-duty usage.
The Times reported that new projects, including the laying of fibre-optic broadband cables across Britain, would be allowed in the road only after contractors have proven that pavements or verges have been considered first.
Companies would not be allowed to dig up pavements on both sides of the road at the same time to ensure that some pedestrian access is retained where possible. Fines for overrunning on roadworks by utility companies have doubled in the past five years.
The plan to lay cables under pavements is likely to be opposed by parents’ groups and disability campaigners, who are more likely to bear the brunt of reduced roadside mobility.
Transport groups aren’t convinced either, with Campaign for Better Transport’s chief executive Stephen Joseph saying: “Unless Chris Grayling is prepared to make much more money available for pavements, he will simply make an already big problem a whole lot worse.
“You can’t just export the problem from roads to pavements without expecting major consequences.”
Mr Joseph added that Britain’s pavements are already in a terrible state and further disruption could result in more trips and falls, potentially putting the already overstretched NHS under even more pressure.
Ben Robb, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, commented: “Britain’s roads are currently ranked 27th in the world for quality, behind Germany, France and Spain, as well as Chile and Cyprus. The UK could slip to an even lower place after freezing conditions at the end of February ravaged roads yet again and left them needing £9.3 billion worth of repairs.”
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