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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 200-219)



Mr O'Brien

  200. Mr Radford, under the scheme that you are planning at the moment, can you put cameras in the area where you have the application of funding, where the money has to be recycled, or can you put them anywhere in the county?
  (Mr Radford) At the moment we do not benefit from the netting off process. We are forming a partnership in Gloucestershire to take part in it because of the success of the pilot studies that Stewart has mentioned. I add that one of the additional benefits of netting off is that there is a requirement to work with the public on this. Consultation and openness is very important with speed cameras if we are to keep the support of the public. I think that the long-term benefits of speed cameras will not simply be the mechanistic application of speed reduction with a camera, but the gradual acceptance that speed must necessarily be managed more effectively if we are to ensure quality of life.

  201. How many mobile cameras do you operate?
  (Mr Radford) We have no mobile cameras at the moment. We have 39 fixed camera housings and we have no mobile cameras. That is what we hope to have if we are successful in our bid for netting off money.

  202. Are the cameras positioned in areas where there is a history of accidents?
  (Mr Radford) They are, yes. We have a strict criteria for selecting sites, as a road safety measure.
  (Mr Shortland) Our cameras are similarly located, but we have eight mobile vans that tour the county visiting high risk sites.

Mr Stevenson

  203. Mr Shortland, you seem to have invested heavily in the speed management programme?
  (Mr Shortland) Yes.

  204. Have you broken even yet?
  (Mr Shortland) We have more than broken even, yes. We have achieved a 500 per cent rate of return. The income from accident savings is five times greater than the cost and the income from fines also exceeds the costs.

  205. Can you give the Committee some idea of when the scheme broke even? Was it early in the scheme?
  (Mr Shortland) Yes, in relation to income from fines, we started in April and I think it was around December that we broke even in the first year.

  206. Can you give the Committee an idea of how many offences have to be identified to reach that point?
  (Mr Shortland) It would depend on each county as to how much infrastructure was put in, but in Northamptonshire it was 65,000 offences.

  207. Mr Thompson, on this issue of not allowing speed offences to be transmitted to the control centre rather than done at the roadside, what is your view?
  (Dr Thompson) We are in the forefront of developing and using digital technology. The company developed that equipment over a nine-year period. We have gone through the process of testing the public acceptability of it. One of the conditions that were imposed on the use of this equipment was that the transmission of the digital images would not be sent directly to police stations. We are already in the process of receiving, in our traffic control centre, images of offences that are taking place using CCTV equipment. That gives an indication of the public acceptability of transmitting information. The digital cameras are transmitting that information down dedicated lines, so they are not open to public use as phone lines are. There is not a lot of difference between data transmitted to the side of the road as opposed to transmitted to some remote location that may be more secure.

  208. Is there a difference in public perception about a CCTV camera in a city centre identifying someone who is trying to pinch my car and another one that catches me speeding?
  (Dr Thompson) The evidence that I have given to the Committee is that there is a public acceptance of the use of these cameras for speed enforcement where they address casualty savings. Within the data that I have provided, there is evidence that the general public understand that the cameras are implemented to reduce casualties. They are not simply there to raise income, as has been suggested by a number of people.

  209. The Home Office will not allow that to happen.
  (Dr Thompson) Not at the moment, no.

  210. Can you explain what benefits have been gained in the project carried out in Victoria in Australia that I understand uses covert methods?
  (Dr Thompson) Yes. I can comment anecdotally on that, but I cannot give the Committee figures on that. The representatives from the Victoria project have shown a particular interest in speed enforcement of the type that we use. They have been involved in the process of enforcement using similar types of processes for 10 years. Their view is that if you use purely highly visible cameras you will end up with a situation where motorists can slow down when they see the cameras and speed up again in other areas. The view that they took was certainly that what they were aiming for—we would agree with this statement—was a change in the behaviour of drivers because the drivers recognise that there is a link between speed and casualties, and that they should drive at appropriate speeds within the speed limit for safety reasons and not just to avoid being caught on cameras.

  211. Would you say that the Government's decision to highlight speed cameras by painting them yellow or putting yellow strips on them is exactly the opposite to what you would argue needs to be done?
  (Dr Thompson) We have accepted the Government's recommendations to paint the cameras yellow and an order has been placed for all the cameras in Nottingham to be painted yellow. We have taken no action to hide those cameras. Those cameras have always been a visible statement of our intention to address casualty reduction. We need to extend the consideration of speed and the impact of speed into all the areas that we are managing as a highway authority. When at a public meeting—I attend almost one a month—the most frequent question that I am asked as a highways engineer is for something to address the speeds in the residential areas. We need to encourage in drivers, through the speed at which they drive particularly in residential areas, the belief that collision avoidance is their responsibility. We shall not be able to achieve that by engineering or enforcement cameras in the short term.

  212. You seem to feel very strongly about this. In your evidence you describe the Government decision to make speed cameras conspicuous by saying that "the recent Government approach could be compared to instructing undercover drug squad officers to always wear a visible police badge". That is pretty hard stuff.
  (Dr Thompson) It is. It is a clear statement to say that we need to consider the speed in the whole of the network and not just where we happen to have a camera.

  213. Briefly, was the Government's decision based on scientific evidence?
  (Dr Thompson) In my opinion, more evidence could have been taken from the public opinion survey and on what the views are of the highways authorities and the police on this particular issue.

  214. Are you saying that neither the highways authorities nor the police were consulted before the decision was taken?
  (Dr Thompson) We have not had the lengthy approach to consultation that would be necessary for us to give a formal reply.

Helen Jackson

  215. What measures have you put in place to ensure public support?
  (Dr Thompson) In Nottingham, as part of the netting off process, we have allocated £20,000 per annum to emphasise the link between speed and casualties and to explain exactly why we are operating the enforcement programme.
  (Mr Shortland) We have also invested in marketing the idea behind projects. We want to be open and honest about where we are locating cameras.

  216. How much have you invested?
  (Mr Shortland) We have invested two full-time officers and a project of £25,000.


  217. Do you try to avoid catching some newspaper reporters?
  (Mr Shortland) No.

Helen Jackson

  218. Why is it that some councils, take Nottinghamshire for example, feel that this is none of their business and have not participated in these kind of schemes?
  (Mr Shortland) Stewart asked me to answer this one for him as he is a bit close to it. I think it is purely a political decision on the part of a small number of Nottinghamshire councillors who have not looked at the evidence properly.

  219. Do you accept that there are frequently lobbies of motorists objecting to traffic calming measures?
  (Mr Shortland) No, I would not. I think most motorists know why traffic calming measures are introduced and respect that and most of them want them in their roads as well.
  (Mr Radford) In the Safer City Project we had a lot of criticism from the press and local individuals about traffic calming, but we had opinion surveys carried out and found that the silent majority are often very much in favour. Often the residents in the road that is calmed are in favour of it and those who drive through them on a regular basis are less enthusiastic.

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