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Drivers treated as ‘wallets on wheels’

Drivers treated as ‘wallets on wheels’
Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

A Government crackdown on cash cow road schemes has gained support from motoring organisations.

Under a new Plan for Drivers, the Government is aiming to give local people a stronger voice on ‘anti-driver’ road schemes that affect them.

Consultations are being launched to prevent local councils from turning drivers into “wallets on wheels” by enforcing unfair restrictions such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and 20mph zones.

LTNs are areas where vehicle numbers are reduced, and work by preventing vehicles from using certain streets as through-roads into other destinations, usually by installing temporary or permanent barriers that stop traffic from being able to drive along a certain route.

Recent examples where councils have implemented these schemes without public support have been shown to cause disruption and have unintended negative consequences. An LTN trial in Streatham, South London, was suspended earlier this month following disruption to bus services and much longer journey times for drivers.

Councils must gain resident support

Proposals from the Department for Transport (DfT) will mean councils will be obliged to consider whether residents support the implementation of LTNs in their area before schemes can be introduced.

The department has published draft statutory guidance for councils on LTNs, setting out that they must gain buy-in from local residents, businesses and emergency services when considering implementing new LTN schemes.

This could involve in-person events, online engagement, and leaflet drops to involve the whole community in the process, and will mean that authorities must consider whether an LTN has local support before it is implemented.

There is also strengthened guidance for councils on 20mph limits, such as reminding local authorities that 20mph zones should be reserved for “sensible and appropriate areas only”, such as outside schools.

The DfT said these measures will improve drivers’ lives, shorten journey times, and ensure traffic measures have buy-in from the people they impact.

Potential for funding withdrawal

The DfT warned that if local authorities fail to deliver “sensible” road schemes that work for local people, they could see future funding withdrawn. In addition, under powers from the Traffic Management Act, the Government could ultimately take control of an authority’s roads where they are deemed to be widely mismanaged.

A consultation will also be launched this summer on measures including the removal of local authorities’ access to Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) data to enforce such schemes by camera.

DfT research found that local authorities operating LTNs issue an average of 36,459 penalty charge notices per scheme, with the highest number of penalty charge notices issued for a single LTN scheme exceeding 170,000.

Mark Harper, transport secretary, said: “We want local people to have their voices heard, and any traffic schemes to have the consent of those they impact.

“Well-thought-out schemes, like 20mph limits outside schools, can make our roads safer, but we are raising the bar to help ensure all traffic schemes work for everyone in the community.

“We’re on the side of drivers, and these latest measures show we’re getting on with delivering what we promised in our Plan for Drivers – making their lives better, fairer and cheaper, and helping people travel in the way that works best for them.”

Consultation on the ‘misuse’ of yellow box junctions

Consultations are also launching that are focusing on preventing local councils from turning drivers into cash cows by profiting from enforcing traffic restrictions. This includes fines for drivers going into yellow box junctions or parking restrictions.

Local people will have their say on whether they think enforcement is currently fair or if they believe authorities should be restricted in their traffic enforcement powers.

Simon Williams, RAC head of policy, said: “We’re very pleased to see the Government responding to our calls for clearer guidance on yellow box junctions with their consultation on the misuse of these measures.

“It’s also extremely positive to see progress made on the installation of noise cameras, after six in 10 drivers (58%) told us they would be in favour of these measures last year. Excessive noise pollution is not only extremely frustrating, it could also have a really serious impact on residents’ health and lives, and until this point there’s been very little anyone can do about it. We’re keen to see if this new technology goes some way towards resolving the issue and hope it can be rolled out quickly and efficiently.”

Jack Cousens, AA head of roads policy, said: “The best traffic management schemes are the ones that have undergone significant local consultation from their inception.”

He added: “Allowing more councils to impose fines for yellow box junction offences has resulted in some drivers feeling that they are seen as ‘wallets on wheels’ by their local authority.”

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