LAST week’s news that the government is proposing to charge utilities companies for digging up roads during peak hours is the latest in a long line of measures designed to combat disruption.
Such works are a huge problem for all London boroughs. But imposing financial disincentives can only ever be one part of a more complex solution – especially as extra costs are likely to be transferred to customers.
Here in the Square Mile we face a unique set of circumstances: the City of London is a modern global financial centre built upon a medieval street grid network.
Many street works that take place are emergency repairs or involve the installation of new services that City businesses deem vital to their work.
It is not just tax and regulation that affects the City’s international competitiveness. Technologies such as high-speed broadband, upgraded telecoms and double-power routes are equally important to the international business community.
Indeed, street works are the surface sign of a thriving, evolving City.
But whilst we have to accept a certain amount of disruption, we must also strive to keep this disruption to a minimum and significant steps have been taken towards this goal.
Street works for which the City of London is responsible – around 30 per cent of the total works at any time – are carefully planned to minimise congestion, to fit in with other, on-going projects and to accelerate completion by using innovative schemes such as double shifting on key sites.
With TfL’s lane rental scheme on the agenda for next year, the City of London is already providing an enhanced information service – online and in the form of improved signage which you may have seen on many of the major sites throughout the Square Mile. We also commissioned research into how utilities companies are regulated to help them plan works more efficiently.
The City of London leads the way in grouping works together so that the same piece of road is not dug up repeatedly in a short space of time and, since April, has issued more than 20 fixed penalty notices to companies who have failed to comply with the terms of their permits
Anyone visiting the City of London’s website can now also access maps detailing exactly when and where street works are taking place – plus see a briefing for the week ahead. You can visit www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/streetworks or watch daily Twitter updates at @Squarehighways.
Clearly there is no quick fix but there is no doubt that the situation is improving and that it will continue to do so whilst we work to ensure the City remains fit for purpose as a leading global financial centre.
Stuart Fraser is policy chairman at the City of London Corporation