Being primarily a pedestrian, I am less bothered by road works than many people, but they do leach over into pavements or block much used routes across roads, so I read with interest a press release this morning about fines for roadworks that run beyond their allotted time-scale.
Irresponsible firms who allow their road works to overrun will face penalties of up to Â£25,000 a day – a tenfold increase on the current Â£2,500 maximum daily charge – under plans published today by Transport Minister Sadiq Khan.
Impressive – until you put on your cynics hat, which I wear a lot when reading government press releases.
The most obvious one is that road works will simply become a Bakers Dozen. For those of you familiar with the saying, but not sure as to why bakers offer 13 loafs, let me inform you.
It is claimed (although disputed) that Henry III imposed a draconian punishment for anyone who short-changed a customer buying a dozen loafs of bread. So severe was the punishment that bakers took to adding a thirteenth loaf as insurance.
Incidentally, only the nobility could afford (or need) a dozen loafs at a time, so this law only benefited the rich, while the poor carried on getting ever smaller single loafs and being ripped off.
Anyway, under the new road works regime, if the punishment for going a day over the allocated time is that severe, all that will happen is that utilities firms will reserve an extra day from the local authority, for insurance purposes.
So, a road reserved for a week today, will be reserved for maybe 8-9 days next week. Builders being builders, they will know they have extra time to complete the works, and some labour creep into the overtime will occur.
So, the net effect of the larger fines is to cause more road congestion as repairs are booked for – and take – a longer amount of time to complete.
Someone please explain how that is a good thing.