Private companies will be charged to dig holes in roads under a new scheme launched by London mayor Boris Johnson and pioneered by 16 London boroughs.
However, while alleging that roadworks cause costly delays, pollution and frustration, Johnson descibed the new permit scheme as a 'partial solution'.
"These companies will have to apply for a time-limited permit to do their work and face tough-ish fines if they overrun," wrote Johnson in a Daily Telegraph article explaining the plan.
He added: "We have become one of the most roadwork-afflicted nations in the world. The total cost to London business is not far short of £1 billion, and I am afraid to say it all goes back to Mrs Thatcher.
"She it was who created the privatised utilities. With Michael Heseltine, she decided - entirely reasonably - that these new concerns should be given every possible help in maximising efficiency and delivering services to their customers. So they were given quite amazing powers to dig up the road.
"As a policy, that might have been sensible in the Eighties, when there were only two or three privatised utilities. It looks utterly crazy today, when there are 100 entities that can dig up the Queen’s highway without warning and without so much as a by-your-leave. They have no incentive to get it done fast, and they often put it back in any old condition, with a deceptive patch of tarmac to conceal the rubble beneath."