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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 280-294)

MR CARLTON ROBERTS-JAMES, MS WENDY BROOME, MR STEPHEN PALMER AND MR TIM ASKEW

WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002

  280. What was the outcome?
  (Mr Roberts-James) The outcome was that we had a very comprehensive and far-reaching debate. There were a range of interest groups involved in this; as I mentioned in my introduction we believe that the issue of speed is about more than simply safety, so we had representatives from the Freight Transport Association, the Slower Speeds Initiative, the Countryside Agency, the Highways Agency, and so on, and the outcomes, really, can probably be categorised in three areas: one relating to resources, I mentioned already human resources and the issue of capital revenue; the second point really relates to technique and research, I have mentioned we feel the need for a practical demonstration project on rural safety management technique across a whole route and/or looking at roads of different capacity and purpose so that we are looking at what measures are appropriate for different types of rural roads, primarily beneath the level of motorway we would probably discount them. A major issue really relates to public acceptance and government activity in relation to public attitudes and behaviour. I think we felt that there is a particular problem with policy presentation and in respect of public acceptance of some of what has been proposed in relation to speed, whereas, generally speaking, if you ask anybody—Wendy has some interesting data she might be able to refer to in a moment—what they are bothered about, they are bothered about speed. But, in terms of the tabloid media, you would think that is not the case; that any measure to restrict speed is restricting personal freedom. There are some issues there. One of the conclusions we reached concerned enforcement, enforcement of road traffic regulations and traffic law. I think that we need to, as a society, get away from this position where speeding is seen as just slightly bending the law as opposed to breaking it. There is a difference in relation to speeding and alcohol in that respect.

Chairman

  281. I am a little bit worried about the time, will it be possible to let us have a note on the rest of it?
  (Mr Roberts-James) We intend to do that.

Mr O'Brien

  282. With regard to the fact that road safety on rural roads is highlighted by the Society and we are expecting more growth on rural roads does that mean to say we are going to have more accidents?
  (Mr Roberts-James) I think it does, yes.

  283. The time scale that your conference revealed yesterday, is there a time scale set to reduce those accidents? Time is important.
  (Mr Roberts-James) Absolutely. There were some major issues discussed in some detail yesterday, one related to the development of a rural road hierarchy for speed management, and you have heard something about that from previous witnesses. There is a programme of work on that and it needs to be developed promptly so that we have this vision of where we should be going in relation to speed. There is an important issue there. The other side of the coin is to have a better understanding of what best practice really is in terms of some of these roads because we know much less about speed management on high capacity and rural roads than we do about speed management in urban areas, ie through Home Zones.

  Mr O'Brien: Could you put the view of your Society in the paper that Chairman has requested?

Mr Cummings

  284. My question is to the IHT, you tell the Committee that the public has not really bought into the road safety camera scheme, what evidence do you have to support that claim, because the Committee has received both oral and written evidence to the contrary?
  (Mr Roberts-James) In terms of individuals, when asked about safety cameras, then a positive reaction is obtained. In terms of the national position, certainly in certain types of the media, there is a clear indication of a distrust of speed cameras. That was, perhaps, the point being made, a distrust that they were there for the purpose they are intended for in respect of casualty reduction rather than revenue raising. There are proportions of the public in different categories, perhaps, who do have concerns about this.

  285. Do you have any real hard evidence to support what you are saying?
  (Mr Roberts-James) No hard evidence to indicate that there is a ground swell of public opinion against speed cameras, because that would not be the case, but there is plenty of evidence to indicate that a large part of the media are opposed to these and raising concerns amongst the public that may or may not be justified.
  (Ms Broome) I have evidence of surveys in Essex which show very clearly very high levels of public support for cameras.

  286. A high level.
  (Ms Broome) 76 per cent of drivers believing that cameras are meant to encourage drivers to keep to the limit, not to punish them; 72 per cent of drivers believing that cameras are there for accident reduction reasons.

  287. And the public?
  (Ms Broome) These are members of the public who drive, both sexes.

  288. How does the ordinary man and women in the street view the cameras?
  (Ms Broome) These are people surveyed in shopping centres in Essex.

Chairman

  289. As far as this evidence that you are talking about is concerned, how far do the same people give you those results when they are being questioned but observe the speed limits when they are driving?
  (Mr Roberts-James) Evidence shows that substantial proportions of the public, I do not have the percentage figure that was used at the seminar yesterday, do drive at inappropriate or at excessive speeds for too much of the time. There is a situation where people may support speed cameras and certain traffic measures so long as it applies to somebody else, which is true of many aspects of traffic management practice at the moment.
  (Mr Askew) We recently introduced a speed limit in Devon in a village which has been campaigning for it for many years. Because the village had been very vociferous in it we produced it without, perhaps, the normal full level of consultation with the villagers than we would have otherwise have taken. Within a month of it being introduced 53 per cent of those booked were local drivers, including some of the campaigners. I know that is not an isolated experience.

  290. How has that gone down with the campaigners, have they accepted it?
  (Mr Askew) They were very ashamed at the publicity it engendered.

Chris Grayling

  291. Mr Robert-James, your memorandum gave the impression that you feel road travel is the only form of safety area where the government has not made it a priority, a large emphasise is spent on the railways and there does not seem to the same emphasis on the roads. Do you think the government has the political will to address the issue of road safety?
  (Mr Roberts-James) I would like to think it has. It will take perseverance and commitment and it will take a concerted effort to deal with some very strong vested interest. I cannot comment personally on whether or not the Government has sufficient commitment. What is important, in looking at safety across the modes, is to actually have a clear understanding of the benefits that can be achieved from investment so you understand in an objective and a data-led way whether or not you are spending money wisely, and whether or not you are getting the maximum benefits in terms of whatever your objectives may be, in this case casualty reduction. What we call for is a proper appraisal of value-for-money and best value in expenditure on safety because, quite clearly, there is a significant return on investment in local safety schemes on highways, and in terms of area-wide road safety management activities.

  292. Can I lastly ask you—and I declare an interest in that I have just introduced a 10 minute Rule Bill on the subject—30 mph repeater signs many authorities want to introduce them, probably not in a mandatory form but have the option of using them on problematic pieces of road where there is no real clear, visible indication of what the speed limit is and the nature of the road can be confusing. What is your view about how effective 30 mph repeater signs could be and their desirability?
  (Mr Roberts-James) Firstly, I think there is an urban design consideration. It is important that the traffic management profession and traffic management practice actually seeks to avoid clutter and to come up with solutions that are easy to maintain and are not visually intrusive. I want to be convinced that 30 mph repeater signals would not be unduly visually intrusive in particular areas. There is also the issue that specifying speed limits in certain areas actually encourages people to drive up to those when they may not otherwise be doing so, that is the difference between appropriate speed and the speed limits. Generally speaking we need to have an understanding of what extra burden that would place, in terms of on-going maintenance, and the like. Generally speaking it would be specific to particular lengths of roads, depending on the problems. If that is a better solution or a potential solution compared to other physical measures that might be suitable. I would always have at the forefront of "urban design", and whether or not that was appropriate.

Chairman

  293. How much does it cost to put up a repeater sign?
  (Mr Roberts-James) That might depend where you are.
  (Mr Askew) The costs of an individual repeater sign is not great to have one manufactured. The one off cost would be greater, it is £40 to £50 per sign. We would have grave concerns about the use of 30 mph repeater signs, as soon as you introduce them on one stretch of the road that has the problem you are then swamped with demands to put them on all road or people will assume because there are not 30 mph repeater signs they are not there. You need to look at other methods.

  294. The 80 mph on motorways, which we are told the Home Secretary wants, if they were vigorously enforced, would be better than an advisory limit of 70 mph, with quite a lot of people going substantially over the top.
  (Mr Roberts-James) The Institution would not support raising the speed limit from 70 to 80 full stop.
  (Mr Palmer) Likewise the IHIE would not support that.

  Chairman: Can I thank you all for your evidence.


 
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