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Charging for works aims to improve road conditions and reduce closures

Plans by States Departments to charge companies that close and dig up the island's roads should result in less traffic disruption, better co-ordination of roadworks, and fewer potholes.

Public Services' Guernsey Roads division is consulting utilities on how to reduce the cost to the public from damage caused by excavations, running to hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.

In addition, the Environment Department plans to introduce charges for closures and traffic management measures. This is intended to reduce the frequency and duration of projects, and to encourage more joint-working between companies.

Public Services minister Paul Luxon said there had been an increase in excavations due to a number of network extensions and improvement schemes. As a result the cost of repairs had risen, and this added expenditure had to come from the existing roads maintenance budget. This was limiting the amount of routine resurfacing that can be carried out to ensure the condition of roads did not deteriorate in the first place.

'There is a reasonable expectation among Islanders that roads should be maintained to a decent standard, but without additional funding we face a growing backlog of work. A lot of this is down to the increasing number of excavations to accommodate an ever growing infrastructure beneath our roads,' he said. 

In 2012, there were 820 excavations, and last year 874. Deputy Luxon said these often caused problems, and made the premature failure of a road more likely.

'Each time a road is dug up it weakens the surface to some degree, and often this leads to problems like cracking and eventually potholes. It not only increases the cost of repairs, it can also mean these roads have to be resurfaced sooner than would otherwise be required,' he said.

'All of which is putting increasing pressure on our roads budget, and limiting how much routine maintenance we can do to prevent problems. If we don't tackle this, our roads will get worse, so the Department has to consider how these extra costs can be met.'

Guernsey Roads has written to all local utilities to ask what impact charging for excavations would have on them, and what method of calculation is preferred. Their feedback will be used to determine how best to increase funding for road maintenance.

Options include a fixed annual charge per utility, or a sliding fee scale based on the age of a road surface, and the extent of excavation.

'The public are already having to meet the cost of repairs, and driving over the effects of these excavations. So we think it is right to examine whether those companies digging up roads should make a reasonable contribution to their subsequent repair and maintenance. This will enable us to better target our existing budget towards routine resurfacing,' he said.

Public Services is working on its proposals alongside Environment, which is looking at charging companies and individuals who require roads to be closed. This will recover the annual £350,000 cost of managing and co-ordinating roadworks, currently funded through general revenue.

It is hoped that the new charges will encourage greater cooperation between companies. Charges for the coordination of roadworks will be on a sliding scale, depending on the size of the road, and the duration. This will also provide a financial incentive to ensure the length of any closure is kept to a minimum.

Environment Department Minister, Deputy Yvonne Burford said, 'We are keen that there should be a balance between what the public pays for and what businesses closing or disrupting the roads contribute. If someone is benefiting from a closure or a parking suspension, that person or company should bear some of the costs associated with doing so.'

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