19th April 2012
Mike Penning answers back bench MPs’ questions on roadworks and cycling.
Gareth Johnson (Dartford) (Con): What steps her Department is taking to reduce congestion caused by roadworks. 
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Mike Penning): We are consulting on plans to make it easier for local authorities to introduce roadworks permit schemes allowing them to control and co-ordinate works better. We have made regulations to allow “pioneer” lane rental schemes, and we are increasing the charges that local authorities can impose where works overrun time limits.
Gareth Johnson: I am grateful to the Minister for his answer, as roadworks can be extremely frustrating for all motorists. Will he therefore do all he can to ensure that utility companies take a co-ordinated approach and that, wherever possible, they avoid undertaking roadworks during rush-hour periods?
Mike Penning: Utility companies have the powers to carry out roadworks, but it is very important that they work with local authorities and finish on time. We intend to increase the fine for not finishing on time to £5,000 a day for the first three days, and to £10,000 a day for every day thereafter. I fully understand my hon. Friend’s frustration about works being briefly started and then stopped before being resumed again a few days later. We need to address that.
Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): Is not the best way to tackle congestion both at roadworks and everywhere else simply to get more people on their bikes? As a result of The Times campaign, we now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to boost cycling in Britain. There is now media support, cross-party support in this House and huge public support. Instead of just being given a list of all the measures on cycling that the Government are taking, we need fresh thinking and new ideas, and investment shifted to cycling from other areas of transport spending. We must take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to boost cycling in Britain.
Mike Penning: Cycling is very popular in this country, and becoming even more so. The Government support The Times campaign. I have met many of those involved, and we support most of the things The Times has called for. The sort of roadworks my hon. Friend the Member for Dartford (Gareth Johnson) was talking about would not be affected by such cycling measures, however. We are trying to make sure that utility companies do not dig up the roads and then leave them open without having finished the works.