Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 165-179)




  165. Welcome to the second session of the Committee's inquiry into road traffic speed. I apologise for the absence of Mrs Dunwoody. She is away with the Electoral Commission so I am in the chair. Please will you identify yourselves?
  (Mr Radford) My name is David Radford. I am the Road Safety Manager for Gloucestershire County Council.

  (Dr Thompson) My name is Stewart Thompson. I am the Road Safety Service Manager for Nottingham City Council.
  (Mr Shortland) I am Jon Shortland. I am the Casualty Reduction Manager for Northamptonshire County Council.

  166. Perhaps I can ask you to speak up so that those at the back of the room can hear what you say. By way of introduction would you like to add anything to the evidence that you have submitted already?
  (Dr Thompson) I would like to thank the Committee for this opportunity to give evidence. After burglary, speeding is the second biggest concern of the public in Nottingham. The approach for dealing with that concern and the casualties that result from speeding is to use a speed management approach that ranges from home zones and traffic calming at one end to the latest available digital technology at the other. That is done on a partnership basis, involving the Highways Agency, the police and the Nottinghamshire Magistrates' Courts Service. Education forms a part of that process.

  Chairman: If no one else wants to say anything we shall continue with the questions.

Mr Cummings

  167. The Committee understands that Gloucestershire County Council and the City Council were involved in the Gloucestershire Safer City Project, which took place over the previous five years.
  (Mr Radford) That is correct.

  168. In your evidence you refer to applying the Safer City Project to the "wider urban environment". Can you tell the Committee what you mean by that and what results you have had from the exercise? Can you inform the Committee what lessons have been learned from the Safer City Project?
  (Mr Radford) Yes, certainly. The Safer City Project was an attempt to look at a city-wide approach to accident reduction. Before the Safer City Project, in Gloucestershire accidents had been treated where they appeared on the network in numbers sufficient to justify expending engineering finances and implementing engineering schemes. Gradually, as we got on top of some of the accident cluster sites, we found that we needed a different approach. The work by the department on urban safety management had led to a slightly different approach to casualties. In the project there was a desire to apply that on a city-wide scale to see whether it would be effective. The Gloucestershire County Council and the City Council put in a bid to take part in the project and were successful in that bid. In 1996 they commenced the project for five years. The objective was to look at casualties on a city-wide basis and the strategy was one of looking at all the roads in the city and trying to establish a hierarchy of roads. Basically, there was a three-tier hierarchy: main roads for travelling in and out of the city; mixed-use roads for buses, cyclists, pedestrians and local traffic; and residential roads where the objective was to reduce speeds so that pedestrians could enjoy greater safety. When the Safer City Project team looked at the city plan it became apparent that a lot of roads were being used for the wrong purpose. Any road that happened to go to the city through a residential area was fair game. The task was to try to establish what would be necessary to get the three hierarchies established and to secure appropriate speeds on appropriate roads. Possibly two main points were learned from the project. To get the hierarchy right in the first place was essential. That meant using the accident information, using traffic flows and conducting quite a bit of research. The second most important lesson was to work with the public on the programme and on the implementation. The Safer City Project had a fairly strong public involvement. There was a Safer City Forum as well as a steering group that involved councillors and officers. The forum was a public forum where people were welcome to come along. Representatives of local industry, the bus companies, residents' groups and disability groups could come along, make their comments and help to develop the ideas that took the plan forward. The results were put together in 2001 by the DTLR; they were interim results to the end of 2000. The project is being monitored by the Transport Research Laboratory which will gather the final results in about July of this year. The objective that the project set out at the beginning was to reduce casualties by a third from the 1991 to 1995 average and to achieve that by the year 2000. When all the results are in for 2000, the TRL will produce a detailed report at the end of the year. However, the early indications are that there has been a significant reduction especially in the more serious casualties. A 38 per cent reduction in those killed or seriously injured in the city was achieved by the end of the year 2000 compared with the 1991 to 1995 average. That compared with a 22 per cent fall in the rest of the county.

  169. Has that been sustained?
  (Mr Radford) We shall have to wait until we see the final results. As yet they are not finalised. The implications are that, with the infrastructure that is in place, it should be sustained.

  170. Can you tell the Committee what the Safer City Project cost and what do you believe are the rates of return?
  (Mr Radford) I cannot give exact figures. I was not directly involved in the planning of the project, but the idea was to spend £5 million of capital money over the five years, with a contribution from the City Council and the County Council which I understand was £2 million. What that amounted to in the end I do not know. As for the rate of return on that, it is still too early to say, but I expect the Transport Research Laboratory to come back with that information.

  171. What would you expect the rate of return to be?
  (Mr Radford) With the cost of a fatal accident being over £1 million, I would expect the rate of return to be significant. This is a bit of an estimate, but I would expect to get probably a 100 per cent rate of return over three years.

  172. I direct the next question to Nottingham. Do you think that the physical calming measures, such as humps and cushions, are the future of speed management? Do you subscribe to the re-engineering of streets in other ways? Is there evidence that such other ways are as effective?
  (Dr Thompson) Yes, I think I have given evidence to suggest how effective these schemes can be at the moment. In Nottingham a review of 44 casualty reduction schemes, of a traffic calming kind, have reduced casualties by 50 per cent. At the moment, traffic calming is the only really viable option for addressing casualties in many of the residential streets in our cities.

  173. What reaction have you had from the motoring organisations?
  (Dr Thompson) As you will see from the information that has been presented with the evidence, the motoring organisations are generally supportive of the work that we are trying to do in terms of casualty reduction. I cannot, with any honesty, pretend that traffic calming is popular with that entire section of the community, but with traffic calming we have an opportunity of halving casualties and meeting the Government's casualty-reduction target, particularly the child fatal and serious casualties.

  174. What criteria do you use when applying the different types of engineering and road design? Do you have best practice that can be copied by local authorities?
  (Dr Thompson) Yes. Similarly to Gloucestershire, we have taken a hierarchical approach to the network. We use the highly sophisticated digital cameras on the roads where we have the highest levels of casualties and where other forms of engineering measures are not appropriate. Those types of roads would be arterial routes into the city or the ringroad of the city, for example. At the other end of the spectrum, we have residential areas where maybe 30 miles per hour is not an appropriate speed and where 20 miles per hour is a much more appropriate speed. That is an area where we have introduced traffic calming. The type of traffic calming that we use depends on the roads that we are looking at. If they are roads that are identified by the emergency services as strategically important roads, we will use what is called "cushions". Those are the square traffic calming features, as opposed to the round-topped road humps.

  175. What proportion of your calming schemes have been objected to by the emergency services?
  (Dr Thompson) The emergency services are part of our partnership. In all cases, the police have been supportive of the traffic calming schemes. The fire service recognises the work that we are doing. The ambulance service will object to round-topped road humps in all cases. They prefer the use of the square cushion, which I mentioned earlier.


  176. Why do they object to the round-topped humps?
  (Dr Thompson) They feel that the vertical deflections experienced by the patients in transit are not beneficial to them.

Mr Cummings

  177. Is it correct that all the emergency services have been persuaded by your arguments about casualty reduction? For instance, do the police support you?
  (Dr Thompson) Yes. As I said, the police are very much part of the casualty-reduction partnership that we operate in the city.

  178. Can you tell the Committee how successful the home zones and safer routes to school have been? How extensively can those be used?
  (Dr Thompson) Nottingham has been successful in bidding for the latest rounds of awards for home zones and will be introducing one in an estate called Kennington Road. We have also introduced one on Noble Road, another residential area within the city. Those types of schemes are beneficial in establishing an area of environmental and physical improvements for the residents. They are not always associated with a casualty-reduction aim, although casualty-reduction benefits will be attributed to them as a result of introducing traffic calming within the design. You also mentioned safer routes to school. Again, that fits into our overall plan of casualty reduction. There has been a phenomenal growth in the transport of children to school by car. If we can change that process, and encourage more people to walk to school on safer routes, shifting the balance will help to address the overall pattern of accidents that occur in the city.


  179. Have you managed to shift that balance or not?
  (Dr Thompson) The evidence at the moment is that we are not managing to change that balance substantially. We are not in a position where it is getting worse and more people are travelling by car to school, but the evidence is that it is pretty much the same.

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