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

Annex 7


  The concept of a rural road hierarchy was considered as part of the Speed Review and the Government's Road Safety Strategy, both published in March 2000. The Transport Act 2000 subsequently committed the Government to consider the development of a rural road hierarchy for speed management purposes. Following Royal Assent the then DETR let a contract to Babtie Ross Silcock Limited who set up a Working Group of professionals and the main interest groups to consider the development of a rural hierarchy. The Group prepared a thorough report (Silcock et al 2001) which was made public and referred to in a Written Answer to the House of Commons by David Jamieson on 28 November.

  The overall assessment was that if the hierarchy as proposed were developed as a system of different speed limits, it would be costly both financially and in terms of environmental intrusion. Also, given the necessary infrastructure and behavioural changes required, the road safety and quality of life benefits could take too long to realise. The report identified the clear links between the development of a hierarchy and several other Road Safety Strategy initiatives. DTLR will now develop an approach based on these, building on the recommendations of the report, to determine criteria for assigning roads within a hierarchy.

  The report identified the speed limit signing issues as a big obstacle to progressing the hierarchy as they have proposed it, and DTLR will shortly be commencing work on the Road Safety Strategy commitment to review speed limit signing regimes. The signing elements of the hierarchy report will be included as part of this work.

  The Group recognised the need for traffic calming measures to support speed limits in order to achieve changes in vehicle speeds. The forthcoming DTLR project to develop practical speed management measures on rural roads will be the best setting for testing such traffic calming treatments. Other work that will feed into this will include improved signing, speed limit order making procedures and guidance to determine the appropriate traffic speeds on rural roads. Conveying the right information to drivers about appropriate and safe speeds is a key aim together with ensuring that drivers' perceptions of suitable and safe speeds match the appearance and condition of the road.

  As well as conventional treatments, innovative measures have already been tried by DTLR such as vehicle-activated signs, and these will in future be more widely applied where suitable.

  Both the Working Group and the DETR Speed Review identified the need for more information before we can properly assess the case for lower rural speed limits. DTLR will undertake a survey of vehicle speeds on a representative sample of rural roads to ensure that decisions are evidence based.

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