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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 360-379)



  360. Over what period?
  (Ms McMahon) A year.

Helen Jackson

  361. I am just wondering, therefore, what discussions you have had with the Chancellor of Exchequer about the urgency of extending that experience not to just your department but to the Health Department and the Home Office, where resources are stretched in those areas of extending it rapidly in more areas?
  (Mr Spellar) That has already been taken into account because it is extremely unusual, as you will know, for the Treasury to agree to any degree of hypothecation and, therefore, the netting-off scheme of the fines that have been collected for the management, capital installation and operation of the camera system is extremely unusual. That is a recognition of the cost effectiveness of this, and I think that is now being understood by other authorities. We are in negotiations with a considerable number of other police forces in order to be able to extend this scheme elsewhere.

  Chairman: I am going to have to ask you for a little bit more precision in your answers.

Chris Grayling

  362. With reference to speed cameras, you have a number of cases where changes in circumstances of roads create potential risks but have yet to do so—for example, a major new development that is going to increase traffic along a road. A case like that seems to be a situation where it is still not possible to put in a speed camera because there have not been any accidents yet. Is that not putting the cart before the horse?
  (Mr Spellar) No. That would be an option to the local authority and the local police force. It is for them to evaluate local circumstances

  363. There are no central guidelines?
  (Mr Spellar) There is no restriction on them in looking at that but obviously they need to be looking at where they would achieve the greatest effectiveness in terms of reducing casualties. As you rightly say, they are able to look at a new development taking place which may lead to substantial increase in traffic and a possible range of difficulty therefore changing the circumstances on that road, but the first priority is quite bluntly looking at the evidence base of the high levels of accident incidents and, therefore, where speed is a significant factor in order to reduce those.

Mrs Ellman

  364. The Transport Research Laboratory says that, if £3 billion were spent in changes in engineering and design, deaths and serious injuries could be reduced by 16 per cent. Do you agree with that?
  (Mr Spellar) Obviously we rely on the scientific reports that we get.

  365. Does that mean yes?
  (Mr Spellar) Yes.

  366. Where, then, has that £3 billion been incorporated in the ten year plan?
  (Mr Spellar) Local transport plans and Highways Agency plans are involved not just with new road building or the maintenance of existing roads but also the re-design of roads or the provision of additional road capacity. A lot of the applications that we have from local authorities under local transport plans for bypasses are partly about relieving traffic congestion but also, quite often, about dealing with removing dangerous traffic situations.

  367. Are you satisfied that sufficient funding has been provided in the ten year plan to deal with changes of the sort advocated?
  (Mr Spellar) We could always do with more but—

  368. But are you satisfied?
  (Mr Spellar)—equally we are looking at very significant expenditure. For example, over the last couple of years, the amount of money allocated for local transport plans has doubled, and many of the roads that you are describing are, in fact, local roads and we are now getting this growing disparity, for example, between urban and rural roads—not that the situation is not improving on rural roads but it is not improving as fast as our success rate on inter-urban and urban roads.

  369. But does the amount you have provided for local plans and for design changes equate with the findings of the Transport Road Research Laboratory?
  (Mr Spellar) We believe it is a significant investment and will make a very significant improvement. I am sure we could find additional schemes for which additional money would be appropriate but we need to be striking a balance between the various modes of transport within our transport budget. I think it provides for a considerable improvement in many roads.

  370. So it is improvement, even if not enough. Now, in the Government's reply to your previous report on walking in towns and cities, we were told that the Ministry would be issuing guidance on more friendly transport design and looking at the interests of other road users. When is that guidance going to be issued?
  (Mr Spellar) We will have to send you a note as to the actual timing on that. We are working on that.

  371. What will it be saying?
  (Mr Spellar) Essentially we will be looking at road design and urban design, and the extent to which, therefore, that can be more encouraging to pedestrians to reduce, where possible, conflict between pedestrians and traffic and the extent to which, for example, traffic calming methods or safer zones or, indeed, in some urban areas—particularly near schools but in others as well—20 mph limits combined with traffic calming measures may be appropriate in order to reduce risk to pedestrians. For precisely the reasons that the Chairman said, while we have a very successful record of reducing car collisions, we are less successful on pedestrians and particularly children.

  372. Which local authorities have provided the best examples of local transport plans looking at safety issues?
  (Ms McMahon) We are doing an assessment of their plans at the moment so I cannot answer that question just yet.

  373. Is there nothing that has happened up to now that has impressed you from anywhere?
  (Ms McMahon) I would not like to single out any particular authority.


  374. Could you give us a note on that because presumably, with that assessment going on at the moment, you could tell us quite quickly?
  (Ms McMahon) Yes.

Mr O'Brien

  375. Minister, there have been some press reports and discussion on increasing the speed limit on motorways. Should motorway speed limits be raised to 80 mph?
  (Mr Spellar) We are in agreement with our Home Office colleagues that there should be no increase in the motorway speed limit.

  376. Would there be any time saved on journeys if it was raised?
  (Mr Spellar) In a number of areas it is the flow of traffic that is significant. As we have seen, for example, on the western section of the M25, keeping all the traffic moving at roughly the same speed can ensure more predictable journeys and probably quicker journeys than having vehicles stopping and starting, and also a much wider difference in speed between different vehicles which is one of the considerations that leads to high rates of crashes.

  377. On that particular point, is it assumed then that the three lanes on a motorway—or two of them at least—would be used with a maximum speed limit for all vehicles?
  (Mr Spellar) Within the speed limits vehicles obviously have to drive in accordance both with the road conditions and also with the position of other vehicles.

  378. In the evidence that you submitted on Highways Economics 1/2000 there are tables which demonstrate that the average value of prevention of accident severity on motorways is less than on rural roads. If we are saying, then, that rural roads are where the speeds are at 30, 20 or maybe 40 miles an hour yet the average for prevention there is greater in rural areas than on motorways, is there some correlation there between trying to raise the speed on motorways to try and move traffic further?
  (Mr Spellar) No. Traffic flow on motorways is extremely important but our view, looking at the evidence on both environmental grounds and safety, and also having consulted with the motoring organisations and others, is that the current speed limit is appropriate on the motorways. As you rightly say, they are far and away the safest roads although, of course, there is obviously less conflict with pedestrians in that area which is the difficulty on other roads, or indeed the particular problems we have on many rural roads where, as I said, our rate of success has not been as great as on urban and motorways.

  379. What estimate has been made for additional accidents or loss of lives if it was raised to 80 mph? Has there been an assessment made?
  (Mr Waddams) Can I clarify the question?

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