Examination of Witnesses (Questions 245-259)|
WEDNESDAY 13 FEBRUARY 2002
245. I welcome you to the second session this
morning and ask you to identify yourselves for the record.
(Mr Roberts-James) I am Carlton Roberts-James. I am
Director of Technical Affairs at the Institution of Highways and
(Ms Broome) I am Wendy Broome. I am Head
of Road Safety for Hertfordshire County Council. I am a member
(Mr Askew) I am Tim Askew. I am a traffic engineer
with Devon County Council. I am representing the Institute of
Highway Incorporated Engineers.
(Mr Palmer) My name is Stephen Palmer. I am President
of the Institute of Highway Incorporated Engineers. I am the Transport
Planning Manager of Suffolk County Council.
246. Would anyone like to make an introductory
statement or are you happy for us to go straight to questions?
(Mr Roberts-James) I would like to make a statement.
Firstly, I want to point out that the IHT represents about 10,000
transport professionals who are concerned with all aspects of
land transport and interchange between modes. Hence, safety, speed
and other transport-related issues are very close to our hearts.
When thinking about the effects of road traffic speeds, it is
easy to focus purely on safety considerations and casualty reduction.
While that is important, in our written submissions we were keen
to stress the relationship between speed and social, environmental
and economic well-being in a much broader way. We suggest that
there is a balance to be struck between those and that broadly
speaking reducing the highest speeds would serve to improve social
and environmental well-being, and, while having some impact on
economic well-being, it may well not compromise it unduly. We
believe that 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 and the corresponding figure for
rural roads is just half that. In the evidence that you have just
heard, there was an urban focus. In terms of the institution's
priorities, we would stress a rural dimension. In our evidence
we offered to report back on the key findings of a national seminar
that we ran yesterday on rural road speed management. That was
attended by some 170 or more delegates. If the Committee would
find it of assistance, I would be delighted to summarise some
of the key points in that.
Chairman: Perhaps we can come on to that in
247. My first question is for the Institution
of Highways and Transportation. You may have a chance to enlarge
on some of the points that you want to make. In your submission
you say that it is necessary to demonstrate clear grounds for
regulations to gain public acceptance. Clearly, one of the points
is the design of the road. What can be done to indicate to motorists
what is an appropriate scheme apart from signs and indicating
the speed limit?
(Mr Roberts-James) The key point in respect of the
road environment, and trying to give a message to drivers of what
the appropriate speed should be, is consistency. There must be
consistency of design, consistency of information so that as a
driver passes along a route he finds himself in a situation that
clearly indicates what speed he should be doing. At present that
is not always the case, particularly in respect of the national
speed limit signs and so on. It is the idea that roads should
explain to drivers what is the best speed for them to drive at,
which in many situations may be less than the speed limit. I would
say first and foremost that there should be consistency of design
and message to drivers and to other road users.
248. The appropriate speed may vary according
to the time of day, how many other road users there are, whether
or not there are parked cars on the road, and so on. Is there
anything else, apart from consistency of design that can be done
to tackle the problem of inappropriate speed?
(Mr Roberts-James) In road safety we talk of the three
Es. No doubt you have heard about them. They are education, enforcement
and engineering. Those are the three critical factors. There are
measures that can be taken in terms of engineering that will provide
consistency for drivers through design and through information.
There are measures that can be taken in terms of education. Probably
the toughest one is to achieve success in terms of changing attitudes
and behaviour. Then there is enforcement, which is absolutely
essential to send out the right signals about what society values
and how people should behave. There are three prongs to any potential
solution and the balance between them is essential.
249. Progressing to the Ten Year Plan target,
40 per cent reduction in death and serious injuries, do you think
that the funds are available for the engineering, for the education
and the enforcement?
(Mr Roberts-James) There are two parts to the funding
issue, the first part is capital funding to implement schemes
and projects, and such like, and the second relates to revenue
funding to enable that capital to be spent, revenue funding being
staff and scheme development budgets, and the like. We are, potentially,
in terms of local authority funding, facing a situation where
authorities are capital rich in terms of the Ten Year Plan generally
but revenue poor. That means that in practice where there may
be capital to do a job it cannot be done promptly or in the way
that may be desired because there are not the resources, both
human and financial, to get things done. There are issues relating
to funding primarily in terms of revenue, I would argue, at the
250. Do you think local authorities are sufficiently
aware of this in terms of local transport plans and national plans?
(Mr Roberts-James) I am sure they are, yes.
251. The single capital pot will enable local
authorities to move funds round far more, is that a threat to
the Ten Year Plan target?
(Mr Roberts-James) We are concerned about the single
capital pot if it is not properly monitored. The evidence in Scotland
was that once the single capital pot was introduced expenditure
on transport decreased by over 40 per cent over three years, whether
that is all about safety I am not sure. Clearly at the frontline
faced with difficult spending decisions concerning social services
and transport and immediate and long-term benefits there is every
possibility that a more short-term approach might be taken. We
are concerned that what needs to be done there is to ensure there
are proper monitoring arrangements within local transport plans.
252. I am not quite clear what the focused monitoring
is, I am talking about local authorities being aware of what they
are doing, I am not talking about the government interfering to
a greater extent?
(Mr Roberts-James) I am talking about the Department
keeping a fairly close watching brief to ensure that money allocated
for transport is being spent.
253. Monitoring, but not interfering.
(Mr Roberts-James) You may class it as interference,
but it is monitoring to ensure that what was intended has been
254. Is that not a failure of you as a professional
body, should you not be shouting long and hard about road safety
and convincing councils it should be given a higher priority?
(Mr Roberts-James) We are certainly doing our best
in that respect in trying to promote road safety through conferences,
best practice guidelines and through other means. At the end of
the day in terms of monitoring overall expenditure we can do surveys
and provide evidence to enter into the debate, but ultimately
it is a matter for the department to ensure that what was intended
is being achieved.
255. Is it possible to put monetary estimates
on the cost of speeding?
(Mr Roberts-James) I do not know, Chairman, that that
would be a great help. I think some of these exercises can be
academic and at certain times it is a matter more of a qualitative
and subjective approach. We know that speeding has significant
implications for the severity of accidents. We know that the highest
speeds have impacts and compromise the ability to achieve certain
targets we have otherwise set in terms of carbon dioxide emissions,
in terms of noise, and in terms of community severance. There
are a whole range of factors that are important but are very difficult
to put a price on. I am not of the school that suggests that there
should be a price put on the thing to appreciate there is a problem
and a solution required.
256. Yes. We have heard from the previous witnesses
that there was not any necessity placed on hospitals to monitor
the cost of their casualty departments in terms of road traffic
accidents. Cost to the Health Service is a big issue, would it
be helpful if they were asked to do this?
(Mr Roberts-James) In that specific case I would say
yes, because it is important in the longer term to look at achieving
our desired outcomes in a range of policy areas, whether that
be health, education and transport, by sometimes pooling resources.
I think that if there could be savings achieved in the Health
Service by investment in other areas, such as in local safety
schemes or rural safety management then, yes, there are benefits
there. What is important is to understand what those costs are.
In that respect I understand, perhaps, the direction of the earlier
question, I do think there would be a worthwhile advantage in
understanding better what the practical costs are. How you would
then determine whether that related to speed or to other aspects
of poor driving practice could be something that would need to
be carefully looked at. In general an understanding of casualties
in terms of road safety practice would be of benefit.
257. Do you feel the police authorities in the
same way should be asked to monitor the staff costs of emergency
call outs that might take them away from other very important
areas of crime reduction?
(Mr Roberts-James) We already know, generally speaking,
the costs of fatal, serious and slight accidents through the cost
benefit analysis process. There are generalised costs that practitioners
use in the cost benefit analysis of local safety schemes, where
a price can be attributed to the different elements of the cost
of clearing up and dealing with accidents and the human and longer
term economic costs. I am not personally aware there are any significant
deficiencies in that aspect of our knowledge.
258. You have mentioned the environmental and
social problems, what key measures do you propose to tackle that
(Mr Roberts-James) As an institution one of our priorities
at present relates to rural safety management. We believe that
there is a need for a project which is very similar to the Gloucester
Safer Cities Project in concept yet applied to the rural and countryside
situation. That will enable us to identify what works, what does
not and how best to do things in terms of whole routes between
urban areas rather than in terms of hot spots that we are aware
of in particular areas where accidents have happened. This gets
back to the point in my introduction about consistency, making
sure that a particular route looks as though people should drive
along it at the speed that is appropriate.
259. What about walking and cycling, do you
support the use of cameras to create safer environments for them?
(Mr Roberts-James) The Institution is very supportive
of the Safety Camera Initiative.