Shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers today declared that a Conservative government would not fund any new fixed speed cameras as part of a radical plan to improve road safety.
Villiers said the Tories would “end the relentless expansion of fixed speed cameras”.
“Labour’s army of speed cameras is not the best way to make our roads safer. We will switch to alternative, better, ways to improve road safety. Labour’s dependence on fixed speed cameras has blinded them to the effectiveness of the alternatives. It is time say enough is enough on fixed speed cameras – we have reached the high water mark.
“A Conservative Government would not fund any new fixed speed cameras.”
Villiers set out a four point plan on fixed speed cameras, which will see no central government funding for new cameras, a swtich to alternatives such as vehicle activated signs, the disbanding of Safety Camera Partnerships and the introduction of a requirement for local authorities to publish an annual report accounting for the use of each camera.
The new approach to speed cameras is part of a package of measures to tackle unnecessary disruption on roads, including:
- Taking a tough line over road works;
- Cracking down on rogue clampers;
- Shortening the time it takes to re-open motorways after incidents occur;
- Freeing up data on the phasing of traffic lights; and
- Freeing councils to pilot innovative schemes, like turn left on red for cyclists.
“Under Labour getting around has become a daily grind. If it is not endless traffic caused by road works where no one is working, it is the rogue clampers who use extortion and intimidation to extract huge fines.
“A Conservative Government will focus on tackling the congestion that is costing the economy billions, and the resulting hassle that has made travelling in the UK so grim,” said Villiers. “We will empower road users with the information they need to understand and influence the decisions which affect their daily commute.”
The Tory plans:
1. Safer Roads and ending the dominance of fixed speed cameras
- Switching to better alternatives to fixed speed cameras: We will promote a switch to alternative ways to make our roads safer such as improved education and vehicle activated signs which have proven effectiveness. For example, we will issue clear guidance to local authorities which will prevent their installing new fixed speed cameras unless they can clearly show that a new camera is better than alternative road safety policies. Even if these tests are passed, any new fixed speed camera will have to be funded locally and not using the road safety grant from central government (see below).
- No funding for new fixed speed cameras: Central government will not pay for new fixed speed cameras. Local authorities will only be able to put up new fixed speed cameras if they use their own council tax (and also meet the preconditions above). All fines will continue to go the Treasury, as is currently the case.
- Scrapping the speed camera quangos: We will scrap the bureaucratic Safety Camera Partnerships. Local authorities and the police in each area will need to return to more slimline cooperation arrangements, with the local authority taking a lead on the location and running of cameras. The police’s operational responsibility for legal enforcement and issuing tickets will be unchanged.
- Lifting the lid on fixed speed cameras: Local authorities will be required to publish an annual report accounting for the use of each camera, the alternatives considered, and the fines collected. This information is currently collected by Safety Camera Partnerships, but Labour have allowed them to keep it secret. By freeing this data, local people will have the knowledge they need to campaign on whether individual cameras should stay or be replaced with other road safety measures.
- Average speed cameras: Today’s announcement is focused on fixed speed cameras. Average speed cameras raise different issues. We will put a stop to Labour’s planned extensive roll-out of average speed cameras across all roads. Use of average speed cameras should be very limited and targeted on major roads and motorways and then only where there is a specific road safety need which cannot be effectively met using other means. For example, we expect average speed cameras to continue to be used to enforce reduced speed limits during motorway road works but we will stop the roll-out of average speed cameras on urban roads.
2. More reliable journey times and tackling unnecessary hassle for drivers:
- More decentralisation and flexibility: We will give greater freedom to local authorities to innovate and run pilot schemes on smoothing traffic flow and using road space more efficiently.
- Congestion caused by traffic lights: We will make highways authorities set clear criteria on the siting and timing of traffic lights. We will then require them to publish this information with any supporting statistics and audits they have carried out. This will give people the chance to understand influence the decisions that affect their daily commute.
- Congestion caused by collisions: We will work with the police on ways to reduce incident clear-up times on motorways and to ensure the impact of disruption is fully taken into account when decisions are made on road closures. We will seek to improve the use of the electronic signs on our motorways, for example, to divert traffic away from closures. We will consider whether examples of good practice from the railways and the British Transport Police, which involve senior officers in decisions to close major routes, can be used in the context of motorway clear-up. We will require information on the duration of any closures to be published annually to open this issue up to public scrutiny.
- Congestion caused by road works: We will increase the maximum level of fines for over-running road works and speed up the delivery of permitting schemes (the current rules only require utilities to give notice of work rather than apply for a permit to carry them out at a certain time). We will give local authorities the power to put tougher restrictions on work on key routes, including piloting lane rental so utilities firms will have to pay a rental fee for they time they occupy the road. We will also introduce a national code of conduct for those who dig up our roads, drawing on the code successfully agreed in London, to cover issues including signage, inspection, deliveries and the removal of spoil outside peak times.
- Cracking down on rogue clampers: We will force clampers to abide by a strict code of conduct covering penalties, release fees, conditions for towing (eg the time between clamping and towing), and which outlaws linking staff salaries or bonuses to the amount of fines collected. Each firm will also have to be part of an officially recognised trade association, such as the British Parking Association, who will be required to censure or suspend membership from firms who deviate from this code. And we will give drivers access to an independent appeals process. We will also retain the option to ban clamping on private land altogether if cowboy clampers show that they are unwilling or unable to operate within this new regime.