Examination of Witnesses (Questions 339-359)|
WEDNESDAY 27 FEBRUARY 2002
339. Good morning, Minister. Thank you very
much for joining us this morning. Would you be kind enough to
(Mr Spellar) I am John Spellar, Minister for Transport.
On my right is Kate McMahon, head of the Road Safety Division
and, on my left, Adrian Waddams, head of the Speed Policy Branch
within that division
340. Did you have an opening statement?
(Mr Spellar) Very briefly, Chairman, I would just
like to thank the Committee for taking on the task of investigating
all aspects of traffic speed. We in government take speed very
seriously but, within that context, I think we should emphasise
that, along with Sweden, we have the safest roads in Europe and,
indeed, amongst the safest roads in the world. There is still
the issue, however, that motorists exceed the speed limit or drive
too fast for the road and conditions, and that can seriously injure
far too many people. So we have a target to reduce casualties;
we have developed and published a strategy to achieve those reductions;
effective speed reduction is a vital element of that strategy,
and I look forward to answering any questions or issues you feel
may not have been covered in the Department's memorandum to the
Committee, or that might have emerged in the earlier sessions.
341. I think that is helpful, Minister, and
I must say we were impressed with the quality of the memorandum
submitted by the Department but the reality is that, in this country,
we kill more children than almost any other European country.
We also have one of the highest levels of pedestrian casualties.
Frankly, what are you doing to change that?
(Mr Spellar) I think you are absolutely right that
one of our concerns is that while we have been very successful
in reducing motoring casualties, and I think that is acknowledged
by the Committee and more widely, we still have to do work not
just here but also we have to look at some of those other countries
that do have lower rates of casualties, particularly amongst children
as part of the overall pedestrian issue, and Kate McMahon's division
has been doing quite a bit of work on those comparisons.
342. Did you wish to comment at this point,
(Ms McMahon) One thing I could add is that I, at present,
chair an OECD expert group on child road safety which will bring
a lot of lessons from other countries who have better records
than us, so we can learn from their good practice.
343. Does that include work on the Netherlands,
who seem to be doing better on road traffic calming and who produce
rather better figures than us?
(Ms McMahon) Yes. The Netherlands are part of the
committee and I particularly asked that the Netherlands would
be represented on the group because they have such a good record.
344. How long do you expect your group to sit
and what will come out of the conclusions in the sense of them
being published and when, and how they will be disseminated?
(Ms McMahon) We should report in the spring of next
(Ms McMahon) Yes, and the OECD will publish a report
in their normal research series which will also be available on
346. Do you expect to copy the best of the recommendations
in countries like the Netherlands?
(Ms McMahon) We would certainly take account of them
and see how they would fit in with our policy here, yes.
347. The Commission for Transport thinks that,
unless we have a step change in safety, we are not going to hit
our cycling targets. Do you think speeds are a major contributory
factor in the lack of cycling?
(Mr Spellar) I think the perception of speed is partly
an issue, certainly for many cyclists. The availability of dedicated
track which is improving considerably under the SUSTRANS programme
is improving that. Also one of the key issues has been the security
of cycles when parked, and one of the factors that has been helping
us to increase cycling in a number of areas has been the availability
at stations of safe parking facilities for cycles. I think whatever
we do in terms of provision while people are cycling, they are
not going to be encouraged to cycle to other modes of transport
or, indeed, to work or, indeed, to school unless the bike will
be there when they go back to it.
348. I think we can take on board that if your
cycle has been stolen it is difficult to ride home.
(Mr Spellar) But it is also less likely that people
will be encouraged then to continue, or to start to cycle, if
they have a perception that there is a high level of cycle theft.
Chairman: We will come back to the business
about the plans and SUSTRANS, I think.
349. How many road accidents, or what proportion,
does the government think are attributable to speed or excess
(Mr Spellar) Or within which speed is a significant
factor, because there may be other factors but speed may well
be significant, and the estimates, as I think you will have heard
from the Transport Research Laboratory, are that in about a third
of accidents it is a significant factor. There may be other factors
as well but in some cases they can also be partially related to
levels of speed. In other words, reaction times to take account
of some of these other factors are obviously less at higher levels
of speed, so that leads us to believe it is in about a third of
350. Do you think you are going to be able to
achieve the 40 per cent reduction in the numbers of people killed
or seriously injured (KSIs) by 2010?
(Mr Spellar) Certainly we intend to achieve that and
I think that we have already been moving down in the levels of
killed and seriously injured. I think that is encouraging, but
at the same time I think we need to be looking further. That is
partly about driver behaviour but also about road design and about
issues that have come out related to, for example, the sort of
walking strategies that have been reported by this Committeein
other words, enabling pedestrians to be safer as well.
351. How much of your strategy will be based
on enforcement of speed limits as compared to re-engineering of
(Mr Spellar) It is a mixture. That is why we have
been undertaking the scheme, for example, on speed cameras, on
a whole number of unsafe stretches of road, and we have had significant
impact on accidents on those stretches
352. What are you calling "significant"?
(Mr Spellar) My recollection is something of the order
of 29 per cent on some stretches.
(Mr Waddams) It can be higher. For the eight pilot
areas which have been running since 2000, in the first year the
results showed that at camera sites there was a 47 per cent reduction
in the number of killed and seriously injured people. Over the
areas as a whole there was an 18 per cent reduction in killed
an seriously injured people.
353. Why not just have cameras everywhere, then?
(Mr Spellar) Because what the police forces together
with the local authorities have been looking at is the evidential
base where there has been a high incidence of accidents and where
those have been speed-related and, therefore, where they have
been introducing cameras, and that is why we are insisting that
they are going to be painted bright yellow, clearly indicatedin
order to adjust people's behaviour on those stretches, and what
we are seeing as a result of that is a significant reduction in
accidents. On stretches of road where we do not have those difficulties,
it then becomes less relevant and it is very important I think
that it is structured towards particular areas of road which,
for a variety of reasons, show higher levels of accident. Now,
apart from looking at speed we do also, as you rightly indicate,
have to look at the structure of the road, whether people are
emerging from side turnings in those particular areas; whether
there therefore needs to be stronger signing so that people stop;
whether there needs to be greater visibility on those stretches
of road. All of those factors we know can lead to accidents but
that needs to be very much locally focused and, if necessary,
with local re-design of those roads and traffic lights as well.
354. I think we are all witnessing our cities
and villages under siege at the present time with the amount of
works being carried out by what can be termed utility companieswater
companies, gas and electricity companies and cable TV. It is quite
apparent to me that road signs appear overnight: there does not
seem to be any co-ordination: there does not appear to be any
prior warning: there does not seem to be any sort of plan at all
in relation to reducing speed knowing full well that extensive
works are to be carried out. What does the Department think of
this laissez faire and the situation which has been with us now
for a number of years and which appears, certainly in the area
in which I live, to be getting much worse?
(Mr Spellar) There are a number of aspects to that.
One is the impact of what are described generally as utility workssometimes,
of course, it is actually work by the Highway Authority as welland
the concern is both the numbers of them, whether in any way they
are co-ordinated, and also the length of time that is undertaken
on those works
355. But, Minister, we have talked about this
year after year, government after government, with people trying
to co-ordinate and to plan ahead, and it does not seem to be happening
at all. How serious is the department taking this?
(Mr Spellar) Very seriously and that is why just about
this week we will be starting the pilot schemes on lane rental
in both Camden and in Middlesbrough to get a different experience
from different areas where, therefore, utilities who will be digging
up the road will be having to pay a lane rental to the authority
for using that section of road. That, to us, will give a much
greater incentive to the companies both to co-ordinate their work
but also, where they are undertaking the work as an individual
utility altogether, to speed that work up. Previously there would
have been agreement reached as to the length of time and then
penalties beyond that, and there was a feeling that in many cases
the utilities were going for far too long a period of time in
order to build in an area of safety for them in order to avoid
payment, yet the disruption to traffic was considerable. Few things
irritate the public more than queueing up for a great period of
time, not just motorists.
356. It is not so much the queuing; it is the
guidance upon what the speed limits ought to be. There seems to
be a distinct lack of information for the public.
(Mr Spellar) The first thing is earlier information
to indicate that those works are being undertaken and then proper
signing for people going through those roadworks, particularly
if they are elongated and therefore there is a change in the speed
limit. That slightly moves on to, with trunk roads and arterial
roads, the question of speed
Chairman: We will come back to that.
357. You mentioned the pilot schemes and the
reduction in those pilot schemes of casualties of up to 47 per
cent. When you get those figures, what is your estimate of costs
that they have saved your Department and other departments?
(Mr Spellar) My recollection is that the estimated
average cost for a casualty that has been drawn together across
the various departments £1.4 million, roughly.
(Mr Waddams) For a fatal.
(Mr Spellar) Yes. Obviously for accidents it varies
according to the degree of the accident with partly, of course,
cost to the National Health Service but also earnings loss from
(Ms McMahon) I can give you a figure of about £25
million as our best estimate.
358. For what?
(Ms McMahon) The cost benefit value of the savings
in casualties that have been made in the pilot areas, using our
359. How many test areas is that?
(Ms McMahon) Eight.