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."
It's estimated than 300,000 holes are dug every year in London, and Johnson wants to toughen up regulations further as he belives utility companies will apply for overly long permits, to avoid fines.
"There is only one serious solution, and that is lane rental," says Johnson. "The only way to make the road-excavators understand the full economic cost of their activities is to charge them for the time they spend digging up the road.
"If they are to deliver the roadworks in a timely and efficient manner, they must feel the cost of delay in their own pockets. That is how we will get new technology in roadworks — the equivalent of the keyhole surgeries and the angioplasties that will allow companies to fix things below the tarmac with minimal disruption."
Johnson is working with transport secretary Lord Adonis to introduce lane rental, but says the utility companies are trying to block the move.
The utility companies are reported to fear that the legislation could be rolled out across the UK if it is allowed in London.