UK research finds TMA permitting will lead to increases in utility bills

New market research by industry analyst, Quest, has found that the UK's Traffic Management Act's (TMA) permit scheme lacks credibility from Utility companies. The research highlights a lack of support from Utility companies for the permitting systems with 80% of Utilities believing permits are simply a stealth tax...

BRISTOL, UK, Oct. 29, 2008 -- New market research by industry analyst, Quest, on behalf of Exor Corporation, the UK's largest supplier of Street Works systems, has found that the Traffic Management Act's (TMA) permit scheme lacks credibility from Utility companies.

The research highlights a lack of support from Utility companies for the permitting systems with 80% of Utilities believing permits are simply a stealth tax.

Added to which 75% of Utilities believe permits will not result in better management of the road network and 78% holding the belief it will not reduce congestion -- the principle aim of the Act. Furthermore, 91% of Utilities believe that the additional costs they incur will have to be recouped through increases in consumer Utility bills.

Severn Trent Water, the world's fourth largest privately owned water utility, which operates in the West Midlands, already has two consortiums investigating the potential of operating permit schemes. Under the new regime Severn Trent Water estimates increased costs of between £20-30 million per annum in permit fees. Anita Solanki, TMA Operations and Compliance Manager for Severn Trent Water, says "My general view is we would all benefit from taking some time to see the effects of new regulations and advances in noticing work to confirm they do reduce traffic congestion and improve road management. This would give the new regulations and standards a real chance to work before permitting is introduced."

In contrast, Local Authorities are far more supportive of the permitting scheme. Indeed, over 52% of Authorities plan to introduce a permit system in the next 12 months. 61% of Authorities feel that permitting will result in the better management of infrastructure assets on the highway network, whilst 49% believe permitting will help reduce congestion on the roads. However, worryingly 68% of Local Authorities have still not budgeted for a permitting system and business process change.

The TMA permitting scheme enables Local Authorities to introduce permits that provide tighter controls over the work being undertaken on the road network. The fundamental objective of the permit schemes is to create a common method to allow Local Authorities to better manage street works on their network, reducing the disruption they may cause. The set of powers provided by permits are not intended to prevent the activity of works promoters, but simply to minimize the disruption they may cause.

Commenting on the research findings, Russell Loarridge, VP Global Sales & Marketing at Exor, says, "Whilst Local Authorities and Utilities may not agree on the role of permitting in their day-to-day activities, this move represents an unrivalled opportunity to maximize value from the public purse by taking a longer term view of road asset maintenance. It is clearly evident that communication between Authorities and Work Promoters, with the technology as the enabler, is a fundamental element to the success of TMA and permits."

Pete Rogers, Street Works Product Manager at Exor continues, "There is growing recognition that partnerships between the private and public sector, if correctly managed, can deliver significant efficiency and cost benefits to both parties as well as revolutionizing the entire process of road maintenance. However, until now the desire to work together to proactively maintain the networks has been hindered by a lack of information and ineffective communication. The introduction of permitting whilst strongly focused on Local Authorities, was not intended to be another means of government bodies acquiring additional income but a means for all parties to plan more effectively and mitigate risks."

Rogers concludes, "With accurate information on the entire road network that combines activities affecting it, its assets, and expenditure, local authorities can make the right long term decisions rather than responding to immediate and apparent requirements. Decisions can be based not just on urgent safety needs but also take into account other factors such as asset condition, road user hierarchy, proximity to other maintenance work and, in urban areas, the aesthetics of street furniture. Critically, this approach enables Local Authorities and Works Promoters to achieve greater transparency and efficiency, whilst enabling citizens to keep track of activity on the network."

Exor Corporation was founded in 1995 and is the global leader in infrastructure asset management solutions for Government and network centric industries.

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