Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from Transport for London

1. Introduction

1.1 Transport for London (TfL) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the inquiry by the Select Committee. In view of the Committee’s interest in whether the Government’s new Strategic Framework on Road Safety will fulfil its vision of ensuring that Britain remains a world leader on road safety, our submission focuses on the following areas:

The potential role of road safety targets and the proposed “outcomes” framework.

How will the decentralisation of funding to local authorities work in practice and contribute towards the fulfilling of the Government’s vision?

Consideration of the measures set out in the Strategic Framework and action plan.

The relationship between the Government’s strategy and EU road safety initiatives.

Further opportunities for the Government to facilitate road safety improvements.

2. Background to TfL’s role in road safety in London

2.1 TfL was created in 2000 and is the integrated body responsible for implementing the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) and managing transport services across the Capital for which the Mayor has ultimate responsibility. TfL manages a 580km network of main roads known as the Transport for London Road Network (TLRN) and all of London’s 6,000 traffic signals.

2.2 TfL is subject to much of the general legislation that applies to local authorities. In particular, TfL is the highway authority and traffic authority for the TLRN. Its income is derived predominantly from fares (user charges) and government grants, with broadly half of its income coming from each source. Each London borough is the highway authority for the roads in its area that do not form part of the TLRN. This arrangement is unique and reflects London’s specific traffic management requirements.

2.3 The TLRN forms only 5% of London’s total road length but carries more than 30% of all traffic. Nearly one third of all road collisions in London occur on the TLRN. A further 69% of collisions occur on the 12,985km of local roads managed by London boroughs. The remaining 1% of collisions occur on the motorways within the Greater London Authority (GLA) area managed by the Highways Agency.

2.4 The Greater London Authority Act 1999 gives TfL the power to prepare and carry out a programme of measures to promote road safety on London’s roads and powers in relation to measures taken by other authorities. TfL also has a duty to carry out and act on road collision studies on the TLRN.

2.5 As a local highway authority, the Strategic Framework for Road Safety (SFRS) expects TfL to determine where road safety fits in its priorities and how best to address its road safety challenges in the context of its statutory responsibilities.

2.6 TfL works to improve road safety on all of the Capital’s roads, although, most directly, it has control over interventions on the TLRN. The majority of collisions occur on the borough controlled roads and TfL supports schemes on these roads by allocating funds to the boroughs via Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding. This gives the boroughs freedom to prioritise initiatives using funding within their Corridor, Neighbourhood and Smarter travel programmes and is an example of localism as advocated in the SFRS. TfL and the boroughs will continue to work jointly to develop and provide guidance and technical support to reduce the number of casualties in London.

2.7 A clear commitment to achieving reductions in road casualties on all of London’s roads, both generally and in relation to particular road user groups, has been an important part of London’s transport agenda since the establishment of the GLA and TfL in 2000. The then Mayor and TfL welcomed the national road safety strategy (Tomorrow’s Roads—safer for everyone) approach of setting achievable ambitions in the form of targets based on analysis of casualty trends, policy options and potential changes in traffic mix. The then Mayor and TfL reviewed national casualty reduction targets, following which the Mayor set additional and stretched MTS targets for both TfL and the London boroughs, in order to address local priorities for reducing the numbers of pedestrians, pedal cyclists and powered two-wheeler (P2W) riders killed or seriously injured (KSI) by the end of 2010.

2.8 TfL and the London boroughs have exceeded the MTS targets for reducing total KSIs, child KSIs, pedestrian KSIs and slight casualties. The Transport Strategy pedal cyclist and P2W targets were, however, not met although both modes have seen significant reductions in KSIs.

3. The potential role of road safety targets and the Strategic Framework’s proposed “outcomes” framework

3.1 It is TfL’s experience that national and MTS road safety targets have both proven to be an effective road safety tool in London in that they:

Provide a clear method to communicate the importance of road safety.

Focus road safety activities.

Provide a benchmark against which progress can be measured.

3.2 The current Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS2) highlights the Mayor’s commitment to reducing the number of people killed or injured on London’s roads and recognises the important role that road safety targets could play in achieving sustained road safety improvements—Proposal 64 of MTS2 states:

The Mayor through TfL, and working with the London boroughs, police, Highways Agency, road safety partnerships, and other stakeholders, will seek to achieve any new national road safety targets and such further road safety targets as the Mayor may set from time to time.

3.3 At the present time, the Mayor has not set any MTS2 targets for road safety or other transport outcomes in London. Roads casualty reduction performance indicators and targets continue to play a role within TfL through the setting of London-wide performance indicators in its Business Plan, and within the London boroughs by their setting of short term (to 2013–14) and longer term (to 2020–21) KSI reduction targets within their Local Implementation Plans. They are also demonstrating how these targets will be met through their individual Delivery Plans.

3.4 Although it does not contain new targets, the SFRS proposes three key indicators (ie KSI reductions, KSI rates per million people and KSI rate per billion vehicle miles) to gauge progress in reducing KSI casualties at a local level. These key indicators are discussed below, but apart from the “number of KSIs” indicator, these have limited application to London’s unique circumstances and hence it will be difficult to adopt them:

(a)Number of killed or seriously injured casualties

There are two forecasts for national KSI reductions: A “central forecast” which predicts a continuation of the current reduction trend will lead to a 40% reduction in KSIs by 2020, and a “low forecast” which predicts greater reduction of 50% in KSIs nationally by 2020 as lower performing authorities start to make stronger progress. The considerable existing achievements in reducing KSIs in the Capital indicate that the “central forecast” is more appropriate for London moving forward.

(b)Rate of KSI per million people

The measurement of the rate of KSI casualties per million people is considered to have limited application to Greater London’s population profile, with considerable differences between daytime and night time populations within the Capital, it is not felt that this measure accurately reflects the demographics of the city.

(c)Rate of killed or seriously injured casualties per billion vehicle miles

Again, TfL considers that the measurement of KSI casualties per billion vehicle miles has limited application in London, where a much higher proportion of trips than nationally are made by public transport, walking and cycling, and where private vehicle use is relatively low. Hence changes in the rate of KSIs per billion vehicle miles will not accurately reflect changes, in for example, pedestrian casualties.

4. How will the decentralisation of funding to local authorities work in practice and contribute towards the fulfilling of the Government’s vision?

4.1 Decentralisation may lead to greater inconsistency with local authorities varying more than previously, in the emphasis they give to road safety. As the SFRS admits, performance in casualty reduction around the country is varied and decentralisation is likely to exacerbate that position. It will continue to be vital to monitor independently performance across local authorities and to share good practice across the profession. It is our opinion that while the SFRS’s proposal to develop a portal for road safety professionals is to be welcomed, the proposal to provide a website for the comparison of local performance information falls short of a commitment to central monitoring. Therefore, inconsistent performance will be recorded, but not necessarily addressed. Ultimately this could undermine its long-term vision that Britain remains a world leader on road safety.

5. Consideration of the measures set out in the Strategic Framework and action plan

5.1 Like many other highway authorities, TfL employs a mixture of data-led engineering, education and enforcement measures (the three Es) to tackle the root causes of collisions and therefore help reduce the number of casualties on London’s roads. These measures work by delivering better designed streets, encouraging safer behaviour from all road users and increasing levels of compliance with the law.

5.2 This combined three Es approach has been demonstrably successful in reducing casualties on London’s roads and will continue to form the bedrock of our road safety activities. This success is shown in London’s performance towards the UK’s 40% KSI reduction target set out in the previous national road safety strategy (Tomorrow’s Roads—safer for everyone). By 2010 KSI casualties in London had reduced from the 1994–98 base period by 57%, significantly outperforming the national reduction of 49%.

5.3 The SFRS notes the effectiveness of road safety engineering interventions and advocates the “safe systems” approach, which seeks to identify and rectify the major sources of error or design weakness that contribute to fatal and severe injury crashes, as well as mitigating the severity and consequences of injury. It is surprising therefore that engineering measures are not mentioned specifically in the SFRS’s action plan. These have proven particularly effective in reducing casualties in London, with before and after studies showing an average collision reduction of 24% for schemes implemented on the TLRN.

5.4 While the SFRS makes it clear that local authorities should set their own road safety priorities, there is a risk that the contents of the action plan will be interpreted as a blueprint for future work at all levels.

5.5 The SFRS states that the three Es do not generally look at specific groups, issues and risks. This is not the experience in London where interrogation of casualty data has identified specific road user groups and behaviours that can be effectively targeted by one or more of the three Es. For example: following analysis of fatal collisions involving cyclists and goods vehicles TfL developed a cycle safety campaign with the strapline “Undertaking at junctions can be fatal” which launched in July 2010. Early findings have shown that the number of frequent cyclists saying they hang back behind lorries at junctions has increased from 38% before the campaign, to 49% after.

5.6 The SFRS emphasises the importance of the “public health approach” with its three central features of prevention, scientific basis and collaboration, and places particular prominence given to prevention. This is welcomed.

5.7 Many of the items in the SFRS’s action plan concentrate on addressing offenders. While reducing criminal driving behaviour will bring significant benefits, there has been little research into the effects of measures such as educational alternatives for offenders. There is also a lack of any reference to future evaluation to monitor the effectiveness of these interventions.

5.8 In London, a disproportionate number of fatal casualties result from collisions coded as involving one or more driver/riders giving a positive breath test. The SFRS proposes to remove the statutory option for drivers who fail a breath test by 40% to request a blood or urine test, but it does not go as far as to support the North Report’s recommendation to lower the drink-driving blood alcohol limit for drivers from 80mg to 50mg. Both the Northern Ireland Executive and Scottish Government, however, have indicated their intention to lower the legal limit and we believe that the situation in England should be reconsidered.

5.9 The inclusion of an indicator relating to perceptions of road safety is to be welcomed; as it is a mayoral priority to encourage more road users to walk and cycle in London and fear of traffic may be a barrier to people adopting these travel modes. There is however a lack of clarity as to exactly how these perceptions will be measured.

5.10 TfL is a member of the Department for Transport’s Road Safety Delivery Board which brings together the organisations directly responsible for delivering road safety. The Delivery Board, or any other form of future governance, is not mentioned in the SFRS, and it is therefore not clear how the road safety agenda will continue to be advanced and best practice disseminated at all delivery levels.

6. The relationship between the Government’s strategy and EU road safety initiatives

6.1 The EU road safety initiatives are set out in the Policy Orientations proposed by the European Commission in July 2010. The Commission has proposed a further reduction of 50% in deaths on European roads to be achieved by 2020. In our view, this is not well reflected in the SFRS as its abandonment of a target-led approach provides no clear link to the Commission’s goal.

7. Further opportunities for the Government to facilitate road safety improvements

7.1 There are a number of issues important to the future of road safety in London that will require action from central Government but which are not addressed by the SFRS:

(a)The current Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions prevents local authorities from testing previously untried measures in “live” conditions. However, in some cases it is impractical to undertake “off-street” trials (eg allowing left turns on red under certain circumstances at signal controlled junctions) and consequently the road safety implications, and possible benefits, of such interventions remain unknown. We ask the Committee to recommend to the Government that they amend legislation to allow on-street trials of innovative highway interventions.

(b)The interaction between commercial vehicles and cyclists is a particular concern in London. We ask the Committee to recommend to the Government that they encourage the inclusion of cycle training as part of driver Certificate of Professional Competence training to provide professional drivers with an understanding of cycle issues.

(c)Similarly we believe that it would be beneficial to road safety for goods vehicles to incorporate features that would reduce the risk of conflict with vulnerable road users. Therefore we ask the Committee to recommend to the Government that they encourage freight operators to fit safety devices such as motion sensors and side guards to all goods vehicles.

8. Conclusion

8.1 Reducing casualties on the roads has both economic and public health benefits, reducing demands on the health service and creating an environment in which more people are likely to walk and cycle. TfL looks forward to working with the Government to build upon the significant success achieved in London thus far. The SFRS, however, appears to lack the clear direction needed to realise its vision of ensuring that Britain remains a world leader in road safety.

November 2011

Prepared 18th July 2012