Utility companies may be charged up to £2,500 a day to dig up busy roads at peak times thanks to a new government initiative.

The Lane Rental scheme, proposed by transport minister Norman Baker, is designed to incentivise utility firms to carry out work more quickly or at night to minimise disruption. The scheme will initially be trialled in three authorities. Baker said that roadworks-related congestion costs the economy an estimated £4bn a year.

The announcement was welcomed by Dean Holborn of Holborn’s in Redhill, Surrey, who has had several problems with roadworks over the years, most recently in 2006 when a British Gas disruption lasted 14 weeks and lost him £85,000-worth of trade. “All access was cut off and our customers went elsewhere,” he said. “Unfortunately, compensation is only awarded if losses are a certain percentage of gross annual turnover, so I lost out completely. Utility companies were legally allowed to trample all over my business.”

Any revenue raised from lane rental charges will be used by councils to fund measures which could help to reduce future roadworks disruption.