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

Supplementary memorandum by The Institution of Highways & Transportation (RTS 38A)



  Carlton Roberts-James attended the Committee's Inquiry on behalf of the IHT. During questioning he agreed to supply supplementary information concerning a seminar on Rural Road Speed Management on 12 February 2002. This note provides that supplementary information.


  It is easy when thinking about the effects of road traffic speed to focus purely on safety considerations and casualty reduction. We are keen to stress the relationships between speed and social, environmental and economic well-being. We suggest that there is a balance to be struck and that, broadly speaking, reducing the highest speeds would serve to improve the first two—social and environmental well-being—while not unduly compromising the latter—economic (ie increasing journey times for business and commerce). The question of speed is not just about transport per se, it needs to be integrated with a number of policy areas and targets and a broader view is desirable: CO2, health (the ability to walk and cycle in safety), the urban and rural renaissance, countryside, perceived risk and casualty reduction.

  In terms of speed, rural areas need more attention than urban areas. Since 1985 there has been a 52 per cent decrease in fatalities on urban roads—the corresponding figure for rural roads is just half that. Speed is the crucial factor in the higher number of more serious accidents on rural roads.

  In our evidence we offered to report back on the key findings of a national seminar we held on 12 February 2002 on Rural Road Speed Management attended by 170 plus delegates.

  We would like to report on three key themes.

    1.  Resources—human and financial (both capital and revenue);

    2.  Techniques and research; and

    3.  Public acceptance and the need for Government action and perseverance.


  Our written submission highlights the need to ensure that the move to the Single Capital Pot for LA capital expenditure does not end up as it did in Scotland where, due to competing spending pressures, transport spending decreased dramatically in the years after introduction. But "capital" does not spend itself. That needs people with the right skills which, in turn, requires revenue funding. We face a situation where LAs are "capital rich" but "revenue poor", where money is often allocated on the basis of "challenges", which require a lot of effort with, quite often, no return.

  But the question is not just one of money, it also is one of "prioritising" work as effectively as possible.

  In terms of training in speed management we believe that there is a need to strengthen and raise the profile of vocational qualifications which focus on competence and practical ability.


  The development of a rural road hierarchy for speed management was a major theme in the seminar. We concluded that a new rural road hierarchy for speed management is not a panacea but it is important as part of a wider programme to set appropriate speed limits, based on the function of the route in question, to obtain better compliance on the rural (non motorway) network and provide a consistent road environment in terms of design and driver information. The ongoing DTLR work on this needs to be taken forward promptly. In particular, we believe it would be immensely worthwhile to conduct some practical trials to demonstrate—and most importantly disseminate—what works best . . . a "safer countryside project", broadly along the line of the Gloucester Safer Cities project. But the issues are far more complex in rural areas and what works in the urban context may not be appropriate in the rural context. The bottom line is that we must bring theory into practice more promptly and think strategically about whole routes and not just "hot-spots". Officials in the Department have been most helpful and responsive in preliminary practical discussions, but a positive recommendation from the Committee to conduct practical trials would be most welcome.


  We have a problem with policy presentation and public acceptance of measures to reduce speed. Many people believe it is safer and acceptable to "bend the law" and drive too fast. Spending is not seen as "bad driving" to the extent that is should be. And who can blame them when resource constraints, and it seems Home Office directions, shift policing priorities away from road crimes, and enforcement of traffic laws, to other criminal activities?

  Policing priorities are an expression of a society's values, what it thinks about itself and how citizens should behave. Leniency towards speeding is not acceptable, perceived or otherwise. We urge the Committee to recommend that, in respect of consultation on the Police Reform Bill, road traffic enforcement is an essential ingredient in a national policing plan. Speed reduction seminars for speeding offenders have proved successful in a number of local authority areas.

  It is also important to "win hearts and minds" and educate the nation about the risks associated with speed. This is at the heart of the issue. Road safety campaigns have, in the past, focused on the urban problem. We believe that it is time for a public information campaign to tackle the problems of excessive and inappropriate speed on our inter-urban and rural roads. There is a lot of groundwork to do on public attitudes to speed if the advancements in intelligent transport systems and, in particular, roadside and in-car technologies to manage speed, are to be accepted and rolled-out.


  We produced the seminar in partnership with the CSS. The CSS also presented a paper and a summary of the issues they raised is attached as Appendix 1.


  Solutions will only be found through a balance of measures to improve engineering (creating a safer and more consistent road environment), education (changing public attitudes and behaviour) and effective enforcement of the law and, ultimately, society's values.

Carlton Roberts-James, Deputy Chief Executive and Director of Technical Affairs

Institution of Highways & Transportation

26 March 2002

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