Transport Watch UK Focusing on UK's Traffic & Traffic Systems

Topic 31. NORTHAMPTONSHIRE – LETTERS TO CHRONICLE AND ECHO

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE – LETTERS TO CHRONICLE AND ECHO. NOT A PEEP FROM THE AUTHORITIES.
(NOTE: The letters and headings are as submitted, not as published.  However the diferences are usually minor)

HIGH SPEED RAIL IS A BLACK HOLE FOR THE TAXAYERS                                        HS2 05 chron 10th May 2012

Those promoting this scheme should be ashamed of themselves. Already over a billion pounds of taxpayers money has been spent on a proposal which will make a financial loss in the tens of billions. 

The January value for the Y’s “benefits” (the network out to Leeds and Manchester) amounts to £44.1bn of which £5.2bn is for improved reliability – rubbish, trains could be made to run on time without spending tens of billions. A further £6.7bn is for reduced crowding - rubbish, most of that could be solved by adding a couple of carriages to peak-hour trains. Another £5.5bn is for “other rail user impacts” and £2.1bn for “other impacts”; again suspected rubbish.   That is a total of £19.5bn of rubbish – and that is before noting that time is not entirely wasted on a train.  Worse still the benefits assume no risk associated with the wildly optimistic passenger forecasts - requiring up to 18 1000-seat trains per hour each way.

The losses, supposing the ludicrous passenger forecast arise, will be over £2,000 for every household in the land (a tax hit of £570,000,000 on Northants alone). That at a time when rail is used overwhelmingly by the better off and when nearly half of us use a train less than once a year, let alone a high speed one.

My view is that the economic and business cases for High Speed Rail are a fraud upon the public and politicians alike.  Instead of benefiting the nation, the vast subsidy needed will destroy jobs across the land – a mill stone round our necks for ever and ever.

Against that background why on earth is the County Council supporting this scheme – to the extent of canvassing for a new station that would cost tens, if not hundreds, of millions of pounds (Chron 10th May)?

Paul Withrington Director

Transport-watch

 

Ref. localpapes\HS2 05 chron

10th May 2012

 

HIGH SPEED RAIL IS A BLACK HOLE FOR THE TAXAYERS

 

 

THE MORE THEY FINE US THE MORE WE DIE                                                                   Ref. SPEED20 7th May 2012

Ian Parris is to be applauded for his letter of 7th May.  Speeding, amounts so to only some 2% of recorded causes of road traffic accidents.  Further it is obvious to any who care to look that the nation-wide downward trend in deaths collapsed upon the introduction of the cameras.

Worse still they now set speed limits so low that half the population would choose to drive faster.  That frustrates large numbers of people and is often far below the speed that would otherwise be sensible for the conditions prevailing.

The year- to-year variations in deaths have nothing to do with road safety policy.  Instead the variations are a matter of pure chance.  For example, in Northants’s deaths fell from 108 in 1989 to 36 in 1994.  Nobody knows why.  The cameras then came in and deaths rose to 76 in 1999.  Strangely nobody screamed that the machines should be turned off.  Subsequently the number went down only to reach another peak of 74 in 2006 before plummeting inexplicable to 35 in 2008.  (The authorities then clamed a huge success – “lowest since records began”, clap, clap, they said).

Since then the cameras have been largely switched off – and the death rate has plummeted to 24 in 2010 and to 19 in 2011.   That may be due to the switch off – people now daring to look at the road ahead.  Alternatively it may be due to the financial crash – taking the youngest drivers off the road - or it may be a fluke.  Whatever the case it cannot be down to the time and resources wasted by the police dashing about catching people out who were, for the most part, driving perfectly safely, but then rumour has it that the police have a target of catching 100 per day – for heavens sake! 

As to the proliferation of unnecessary traffic signals, banned turns, and channelization schemes, we calculate it that, if they have added as little as two minutes to the average journey then the delay cost to the nation as a whole will be £12 billion per year, let alone the air pollution and wasted fuel.  Indeed, slowing us all up by 5 mph would cost the nation £17 billion pa.  Here in Northampton, it is as though the authorities’ prime target is to bring the town to a complete standstill.

Copy to: MPs Brian Binley and Mike Ellis, Councillors Gonzales de Savage and Harker and the police authority.

Ref. SPEED20 9th April 2012

Why oh why are the police wasting valuable resources catching 22,000 people “speeding”, 99% of whom were driving perfectly sensibly for the conditions (Chron 5th April)?   It cannot be to save lives.  After all, in 1995, the effective start of the speed camera campaign, the long established downward trend in deaths per vehicle-km collapsed from 7% to 2.5%.  In fact, nation-wide, that campaign could be credited with causing over 10,000 deaths compared with those that would have occurred had the previous trend continued.  Worse still, despite the endless claims that speeding is ever so dangerous, speeding is, and always has been, close to the 2% level of recorded causes of road traffic accidents.

Meanwhile they are setting speed limits so low that half the population would drive at higher speed if left to themselves.

Instead of praise for their efforts the police and those in high places who supported, and who continue to support, this damaging policy should be told to go home and look at the data and apologise for what has been an unmitigated disaster both for public relations and for road safety, let alone to all those people fined or banned for no good reason beyond the pleasure that it may give to those who like to wag a finger.

It will not do.

Copy to: MPs Brian Binley and Mike Ellis, Councillors Gonzales de Savage and Harker and the police authority.

STATION NEEDS TO BE REBUILT FOR LESS.                                                            Ref. stations 01 14th Jan 2012

Your headline “Station needs to be built for less” (14th Jan) should be no surprise.  Network Rail’s cost for the thing is £52 million or £3 million per year if interest is at 6%.  Dividing by the annual 1.1 million passenger departures yields nearly £3 each – meaning that if users were to pay it would add nearly £3 to the price of a ticket.  If £10 million were saved, reducing the cost to £42 million, it would still add £2.30 per departure – equivalent to a fares rise of circa 10%.

Put simply – it’s another barking mad railway man’s dream that will cost us dear if realised - £210 to £260 for every man woman and child in Northampton.

The proposal reminds me of all those officials who make their careers by spending other people’s money on things other people would not buy at the price.

If a business man thinks he can make a profit out of the scheme, let him fund it, but, for heavens sake, do not milk the taxpayer again.

Road Fatalities and the cameras                                                                                       Ref. Speed19 7th Jan 2012

Stewart Joy, Chief Economist to British Railways in the 1960s wrote, in his book ‘The Train that Ran Away’ that there were those “who were prepared, cynically, to accept the rewards of high office in the British Transport Commission and the Railways in return for the unpalatable task of tricking the Government on a mammoth scale, those men”, Joy wrote, “were either fools or knaves”. 

The passenger forecasts for the core network to Leeds and Manchester are ludicrous.  Nearly a quarter of a million high-speed rail passengers per day are predicted at Euston.  That is equivalent to a completely full 500 seat train every three minutes and forty-five seconds in each direction for 15 hours every day.  The proposers say there will be a train every three minutes 20 seconds.  How they keep straight faces beats me.  Perhaps they are competing with those who made forecasts for the Channel Tunnel High Speed link, HS1.  After all those forecasts were only three times too high.

As for running out of capacity, it may come as a surprise but the average numbers of passengers on Virgin’s trains are sufficient to fill just two carriages.  Of course there is congestion at peak times.  However, that could be solved by lengthening the trains.  Network Rail may bleat that platforms would have to be extended but generally that would not be the case and, where it is, passengers could (oh my) walk from the end carriages to those with platform access.

The reason for not lengthening peak hour trains now is probably political.  Cramming rich people and MPs into too few carriages is a fine way to create a climate enabling upwards of £40 billion to be wasted on a vanity project.

Currently The Government is spending of £1.6 million per month on HS2, a total of £750 million during the life of this parliament.

Rather than supporting this nonsense, Councillors should be campaigning to stop the extraordinary waste.  After all, nobody from the County is ever likely to use the thing.  Instead the tax bill will destroy jobs across the land. The £40 billion for the Core network amounts to £1,500 for every household in the land, equivalent to a tax hit on Northants of half a billion pounds.

Copy Brian Binley, Brendan Glynane, Mike Ellis.

ROAD FATALITIES AND THE CAMERAS                                                                                      Ref. SPEED19: 7th Jan 2012

Despite there being no rise in the killed and seriously injured casualties, the police are concerned that speeding has increased, report 6th Sept.  Instead the concern should be that the speed limits are inappropriate and that, despite the rhetoric, breaking the speed limit is, and always has been, a trivial cause of road traffic accidents (2.5% of all recorded causes where there is an injury).

Worse still, at the national level the downward trend in deaths per vehicle-km, which stood at 7% per year in 1995, collapsed to 2.5% under the impact of this punitive, finger wagging and nasty regime.  That has happened despite over 13 million fines, supported by countless thousands of speed humps and traffic management measures, which cause delay and air pollution where none need exist.  Had the previous trend continued there would have been at least 10,000 fewer deaths than have actually occurred.

Meanwhile the police in Northants are wasting resources on mobile patrols in the expectation of prosecuting 24,000 motorists in 12 months. Those police should be ashamed of themselves.  After all, (a) depending on the time of day, speed limits are either far too high or far too low for the prevailing conditions and (b) nearly all the prosecuted drivers will have been driving sensibly for the conditions because, surprise, surprise they, like the rest of us, want to stay alive and to preserve their cars from damage. (How strange).

Instead of pretending that the present policies have been a success the police and those who are paid to govern over us should admit that this 15-year old attack on speed and the motorist has been an unmitigated disaster both for road safety and for public relations.

Copy to: Brian Binley MP, Chief Constable,.Councillors, Heather Smith.

SPEED CAMERAS                                                                                                                   Ref. Speed15: 6th Sept 2011

It is heartening to hear that, following the switch off of the cameras, road fatalities have fallen to a record low (5th Jan).  How surprising is that now that we can concentrate on the road ahead?

However, the small numbers of deaths involved mean that there are likely to be wide fluctuations.  For that reason it is only national data that can be relied upon.  That shows that  the long established downward trend in road fatalities collapsed in 1995 to the extent that had that trend continued there would have been over 10,000 fewer deaths, nation-wide, than have actually occurred.

The pity of it is that the authorities, far from apologising for the dreadful effect of that finger wagging and pointless policy, still claim that it has been a success.  Thank goodness Northants Police and Councillor Harker have at last seen the light.

Copy to: Brian Binley, Mike Ellis, Councillor Gonzales de Savage, Coucillor Jim Harker and Police authority.

DONKEY NODDING MADNESS                                                                                     Ref. Whitehills 01: 27th Sept 2011

It is shocking that developers for Buckton Fields, are resubmitting their application within months of it being rejected.  However the first shock is that the consultants for such proposals routinely pretend that, by waving the word “sustainable” about, the traffic can be made to go away.  At Buckton Fields the claim was that a development, which would otherwise produce a flow of over 7,000 vehicles per day, would reduce traffic.  Simple really – propose four buses per hour, some park and ride and a “travel plan”.  Then say “sustainable” and job done.  The second shock is that the County Council’s traffic supremo concurred with that nonsense.  The third is that the County Councillors nodded their heads like donkeys in agreement.

Councillors must have had another fit of donkey nodding when they approved the ludicrous arrangement at the bottom of St Andrews Road where eight out of 12 possible turns have been banned so forcing traffic to overload the surrounding network.  Heaven knows what the £2 million Cock Hotel scheme will achieve.  The betting is bigger jams - leaving us with the memory of the horrors visited upon us during construction and a distant memory of how it was before the previous two “improvements” – a golden time when there were no jams at all.

The Councillors nodded their donkeys again when deciding to support High Speed Rail.  The route to Manchester and Leeds will cost £45 billion when the trains and tax are added to the £32 billion construction cost.  [That is equivalent to £1,700 for every household in the land or to at tax hit of nearly half a billion pounds on Northants].  The financial loss, after accruing fares for 60 years out to 2093, will be similarly vast. 

Lord knows how many jobs will be lost in that part of the economy that makes a profit if this immensely expensive, hugely loss making scheme is ever built.  But of course – I forgot – they will borrow the money – so no problem there then.

Let us hope Andrea Leadsom’s opposition to this White Elephant prevails

SPEED IS NOT A TRIVIAL CAUSE                                                                                                Ref. SPEED18: Sept 2011

Robert Wootton’s quote from RoSPA “inappropriate speed contributes to 13% of all injury collisions” (Viewpoint 16th September) would be legitimate only if it were simultaneously pointed out that (a) there are on average circa 2.5 recorded causes per accident and (b) “inappropriate speed” may very often not involve breaking the speed limit.

At one time the authorities used to say “inappropriate speed” was the cause of 30% of accidents. That was allowed to morph into the idea that “speeding” was a dreadful problem, when in fact is at the 2% level of recorded causes.

It is because of such misrepresentations, that we have a policy that has led to many millions being fined despite driving as sensibly as could reasonably be expected.  The side effect is great resentment directed towards the police and, perversely, a collapse in the previous downward trend in deaths on our roads.

Paul F Withrington Director Transport-watch

Copy to: Brian Binley, Mike Ellis, Councillor Gonzales de Savage, Police authority.                                                            

CASH COWS OR SAVING LIVES                                                                                          Ref. Speed16: 14th Sept 2011

The plain fact is the authorities have been telling pokies about speeding for years.  Firstly there is the pretence that breaking the limit is a significant cause of road traffic accidents, when, as a recorded cause, it is at the 2% level.  Secondly they install cameras at sites where there have been a spate of accidents.  They then claim success when there is an apparent reduction – overlooking the fact that the reduction will be attributable to natural trends and pure chance – after all, there nearly always is a lull after a storm.  Thirdly they deny, or look away, when it is pointed out that the long established downward trend in deaths, instead of accelerating under this punitive regime, collapsed from 7% to 2.5%.  Fourthly, here in Northants the officials boasted of a great success when the deaths fell to the lowest ever (34) in 2009, when in fact that lay within normal variability. Worse still the officials did not tell Councillors that the numbers had ranged from 36 in 1994 to 74 in 1999 to 42 in 2005 only to rise to 74 the very next year, before falling, by chance and possibly influenced by the financial crisis, to the low of 34 – no different from that produced by a random number generator.

As a consequence or this misplace zeal millions of drivers have been fined most of whom were driving perfectly safely for the conditions and large numbers will have been banned many of whom will have lost their jobs.  Worse still there may have been 10,000 more deaths than would have occurred had the historic trend, apparent in 1995, continued.

It will not do.

Copy to: Brian Binley MP, Chief Constable, Councillors, Heather Smith and Gonzales de Savage

THE HIGH SPEED RAIL DEBATE                                                                                      Ref. HS2 02: 3rd April 2011

The plain fact is the authorities have been telling pokies about speeding for years.  Firstly there is the pretence that breaking the limit is a significant cause of road traffic accidents, when, as a recorded cause, it is at the 2% level.  Secondly they install cameras at sites where there have been a spate of accidents.  They then claim success when there is an apparent reduction – overlooking the fact that the reduction will be attributable to natural trends and pure chance – after all, there nearly always is a lull after a storm.  Thirdly they deny, or look away, when it is pointed out that the long established downward trend in deaths, instead of accelerating under this punitive regime, collapsed from 7% to 2.5%.  Fourthly, here in Northants the officials boasted of a great success when the deaths fell to the lowest ever (34) in 2009, when in fact that lay within normal variability. Worse still the officials did not tell Councillors that the numbers had ranged from 36 in 1994 to 74 in 1999 to 42 in 2005 only to rise to 74 the very next year, before falling, by chance and possibly influenced by the financial crisis, to the low of 34 – no different from that produced by a random number generator.

As a consequence or this misplace zeal millions of drivers have been fined most of whom were driving perfectly safely for the conditions and large numbers will have been banned many of whom will have lost their jobs.  Worse still there may have been 10,000 more deaths than would have occurred had the historic trend, apparent in 1995, continued.

It will not do

Copy to: Brian Binley MP, Chief Constable, Councillors, Heather Smith and Gonzales de Savage. 

ROAD WORK DELAYS                                                                                                      Ref. Speed14: 29th March 2011

The delays suffered will not end.  Instead, delays they will continue, courtesy of the ill-advised “improvements” that have been carried out these last 15 years.  Here are some examples.

The junction on Kettering Road at the aptly named White Elephant was, long ago, “improved”. Instantly we had traffic congestion at times when previously there was none.  The most idiotic part of that was the banning of a left turn, thereby forcing unnecessary detours on motorists. 

Long ago the Cliftonville/Billing Road junction was a perfectly functional small roundabout.  There were no queues.  Now there are because of the ludicrous signalled arrangement, which again bans an important turning movement.

Perhaps the most stupid of all is the arrangement at the bottom of St Andrews Road where left and right and straight ahead movements are banned forcing incredible delay and detours on around 30,000 motorists a day.  If all of them are delayed by a couple of minutes the annual cost is £4.5 million.  I jest not – that is what it comes to using the Governments value for time.

Across the town as a whole the effect is devastating.  The endless meddling is costing motorists tens of millions of pounds in lost time each year.

When they have finished spending £5.3 million at Barns Meadow the likelihood is we will be suffering another overdesigned nightmare that creates rather than cures congestion.

Could there possibly be a stronger case than that for disbanding the “Traffic Management” team along with the “safety partnership” - going on to recycle the speed humps so as to fill the pot holes and, money permitting, to driving a bulldozer through most of the traffic signals, and channelization schemes installed since 1995.

TURNING THE CAMERAS OFF – AT LAST                                                                   Ref Speed 13: 11th February 2011

The sad thing about the switch-off is that it is being done for the wrong reason – i.e. to save money.  The right reason is that the cameras and present road safety polices have been a disaster.

 In the summer of 2010 the Casualty Reduction Partnership claimed success because road deaths and serious injuries in 2009 were at a 50 year low. However the true story had nothing to do with the partnership.

Here are the numbers. Between 1970 and 1990 road deaths within the County averaged 87 per year but there was no trend, just a random variation.  Between 1990 and 1994, just prior to the effect of the speed cameras, deaths fell from a high of 96 to a low of 36.  Nobody knows why.

Deaths then rose to 76 in 1999 before falling inexplicably to 42 in 2005 and then rising to 74 in 2006.  In 2009 the deaths fell to 34, just two below the 1994 value.  There is no evidence that the recent low number of deaths can be attributed to the partnership any more than it can be blamed for the 74 deaths in 2006. Instead the numbers show that nothing has been achieved that may not have arisen by pure chance.

The claim that there has been a reduction in the seriously injured is tainted by underreporting – a fact that can be established by dividing the number of seriously injured by the number killed.  That ratio should be stable but has reduced dramatically over the period, implying that the seriously injured box has not been ticked with the same vigour as in the past.

What is certain is that these policies have caused road congestion and air pollution across the County where none need exist. At the same time many thousands who were driving perfectly safely for the conditions have been fined, thereby undermining support for the police.

At the national level the speed camera campaign is a disaster. Had the 15 year trend established prior to 1995 continued then, between 1995 and the present, there would have been at least 10,000 fewer deaths than have actually occurred.  The dreadful statistic is that, compared with the previous trend, there have been 370 extra deaths for every doubling of speeding fines.

After the switch-off let us hope the police revert to sensible policing, rather than to the use of the inaccurate and unreliable mobile and hand held cameras.

Copy to: Bian Binley MP, Chief Constable,.Councillors, Jim Harker, Sally Beardsworth, Tony Clarke,  Brendan Glynane, Heather Smith.

Road safest for 50 years??                                                                                            Ref. Speed12: 23rd July 2010.  

The Casualty Reduction Partnership claims success because road deaths and serious injuries are at a 50 year low, Friday 23rd

However the true story has nothing to do with the partnership.  Here it is.  Between 1970 and 1990 the deaths averaged 87 per year but there was no trend, just a random variation.  Between 1990 and 1994, just prior to the effect of the speed cameras, deaths fell from a high of 96 to a low of 36.  Nobody knows why.

Deaths then rose to 76 in 1999 before falling inexplicably to 42 in 2005 and then rising to 74 in 2006.  Since then the deaths have fallen to 34, just two below the 1994 value.  There is no evidence that the recent low number of deaths can be attributed to the partnership any more than it can be blamed for the 74 deaths in 2006. Instead the numbers show that nothing has been achieved that may not have arisen by pure chance.

The claim that there has been a reduction in the seriously injured is tainted by underreporting.  At any rate the ratio of the seriously injured to deaths within the county was 17 in 1995 and it is now only 9.3.  The only good explanation for that is that the seriously injured are indeed underreported compared with the past.  Hey ho for the targets I say – just forget to tick the seriously injured box and collect a bonus.

What is certain is that this partnership, in collusion with the traffic management people, have caused road congestion and air pollution across the county where none need exist.

On that basis please ooh please close this “partnership” down – and drive a bulldozer through 90% of the traffic signals.

At the national level the speed camera campaign has been a disaster - Had the trend established prior to 1995 continued there would have been at least 10,000 fewer deaths than actually occurred.

 Northants and likewise the 66,000 houses for North Northants. Instead, the Government should note that Liverpool is a city designed for one million people that now contains only 440,000.

Any chance or an outbreak of common sense? Alternatively, why not tax, fine and bully us to death.

SKATE BOARDS AND TRAFFIC                                                                                             Ref. Speed 10 6th Nov 2010

Mrs Noble (19th Nov) complains that the Council says it has no money for skate board parks whist spending thousands on lights that we do not need. By far the greater expenditure is by the County Council on the traffic lights that have come to festoon the town this last decade along with the ludicrous junction improvements that delay all of us needlessly, let alone the vast salaries paid to those responsible.
As to the delay cost, if the infamous Gas Street Roundabout, St Andrew’s Road, Gold Street trilogy of incompetence alone delay 20,000 vehicles each day by as little as two minutes the annual cost is over £3 million.  For the town as a whole that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Despite writing similarly on ten occasions since June 2008 not a peep have we had from the authorities.  Why is that?  Perhaps there is simply nobody in charge.  Perhaps they care not one jot what they do just so long as the salaries role in.

Pity about the vandalism which skate board and BMX parks might so very much reduce.

SPEED CAMERAS – THE DAMAGE THAT THEY HAVE DONE                                Ref. Speed09 Date 19th July 2009

The claim (4th November) made by the Councillor Heather Smith that the death toll in Northants has been reduced to an all time low is, we believe, a misrepresentation. What has happened since the start of the present punitive regime is that deaths per year have varied at random but with no discernable trend.  Last year, by pure chance, there were only 35 deaths, 18 below the average, but two years earlier there were 74 deaths, 21 above the average.  The year before that there were 42 deaths, 11 below the average. Back in 1994 there were only 36 deaths.  The plain fact is that the annual variation matches random numbers almost perfectly (see diagram below), demonstrating that this costly and damaging partnership has achieved nothing that could not have been achieved by doing absolutely nothing.

At the national level we find worse.  Far from these policies leading to an acceleration of the established downward trend in road deaths, that trend flattened off remarkably.  Indeed, had the previous trend continued there would have been 9,600 fewer deaths than actually occurred.

What is certain is that, nation-wide, 13 million speeding fines have been issued to motorists, nearly all whom were driving perfectly sensibly.  Moreover, despite the rhetoric, speeding, as a contributory factor, is recorded in only some 2% of road traffic accidents.

Not only have the police and officials pretended that a major cause of road traffic accidents is breaking the speed limit, when it is not, but also that a punitive, finger wagging, policy has saved lives when precisely the reverse appears to be the case.

Is there a better way of sabotaging our faith in those who govern over us?

 

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT                                                                                                                Ref Juncts07 Oct 2009

Two million pounds is to be spent “improving” the Cock Hotel Junction including the demolition of the White Horse. Pity about that. After all the millions spent on such schemes over the years has been an unmitigated disaster. 

The congestion at the Cock is caused mainly by the previous “improvement” when the number of lanes available to straight on traffic was reduced and when  traffic from the town centre was and is stopped at least two car lengths from the natural stop line in deference to non-existent pedestrians.  That cost at last half a million.

Perhaps the most lunatic improvement of them all is at the St Andrews Road junction by the railway station.  There left and right turns to and from St Andrews Road have been banned along with the straight on movement to Marefair.  That forces large detours and overloads the St Peter’s way roundabout whilst Marefair, a valuable link in the road network, is empty.  One good thing is that the planners can cheer the large area of seating that they have provided.  The non- existent people enjoy the traffic no end.

Not only do these schemes cost a fortune but they cause congestion all day when none need exist. The cost imposed on motorists will run to tens of millions of pounds per year let alone the frustration. Is it not time for the Council to get a grip, sack those who have imposed this nonsense upon us and put other sacks over the tops of 90% of the traffic signals in the town?  Next they could use nearly all the speed humps to fill potholes.  Just try driving through Brackmills – miles and miles of pure nightmare.

SPEED CAMERAS                                                                                                           Ref Speed 08 2th June 2009

Peter Jones letter of 20th May suggests speed cameras have a place.  Possibly they do, but only for catching true speedsters.  In contrast, micromanaging driver behaviour, coupled with a punitive regime for infringing inappropriate limits, is a sure way of undermining the development of responsible behaviour.  That will underlie why the previous long established downward trend in road deaths flattened off so disastrously in 1995.  Had previous trends continued then, nationwide, we would have had 9,600 fewer deaths than actually occurred.

The very word “enforcement” angers many people, particularly when the enforcement forces a motorist to dawdle like a fool.  Far better to treat people like adults and to encourage them to drive safely for the conditions.  After all, most of us are keen to stay alive.

Mr Jones was caught “speeding” at 4 am at road works on a deserted dual carriageway.  At that time 60 or 70 mph would probably have been reasonable.  Had Mr Jones being doing 70 mph heaven knows how many points they would have added to his licence, highlighting the idiocy of this stupid, finger waging approach.  Indeed, by slowing down, so as to comply with a pointless limit, Mr Jones risked being hit in the rear by someone who had not spotted the limit and who was otherwise driving sensibly.

The County Council’s recently boasted that deaths (in Northants) in 2008 were lower than ever before.  However, since 1992 there has been no discernable tend.  Instead there have been large year to year variations. Last year happened to be a good one.  What is certain is that there was a very marked reduction in the deaths between 1990 and 1994.  Perhaps they should investigate the reason for the sudden improvement.

I comment, speed cameras are not “just money makers” instead they are a disaster.

SPEEDING FINES                                                                                                                  Speed 07 14 May 2009

The fact that the police and others defend the speed cameras is to be deplored. Here are the facts. 

Nation-wide deaths per passenger-km were falling fast during the 14 years to 1995.  Instead of the attack on speed accelerating that trend the trend flattened off remarkably. The effect is that, by 2007, there were 9,600 more deaths than would have arise had the earlier trend continued. That happened despite the issue of 13.6 million speeding fines and despite the cameras being supported by countless speed humps and endless traffic management schemes that cause congestion and air pollution where none need exist. 

Of course no one would claim that the fines caused the deaths but (a) the number of fines is a proxy for the vigour with which the attack on speed has been pursued (b) the correlation between the additional deaths and the number of speeding fines is almost perfect.  Furthermore, speeding (defined as breaking the speed limit) amounts to less than 3% of the recorded causes of road accidents.

Despite that, Ministers and the police continue to support present policies with pointless statements such as 30% of road accidents are due to speed. The truth is that the authorities have rejected the highly successful approach used prior to the speed cameras in favour of an automatic and punitive system that has proved a disaster.

BUS LANES AND TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT                                                               Ref Juncts 06: 23 July 2009

Ron Smith (6th April) accuses me of “ranting” against support given to buses.  That is not true. No doubt buses perform a useful function.  However, it is plainly stupid to imagine that that function can ever be large compared with the contribution made by cars.  After all, nearly 9 out of every 10 miles that are travelled are by car.  Furthermore, the dispersed land use enabled by the car is well-nigh impossible to serve by bus. If it were otherwise then that land use would have arisen in the past, but surprise, surprise, it did not.

The crucial issue that has been overlooked is the high cost imposed on motorists by the traffic management measures (particularly the banning of left, right and straight on movements at junctions) that have been foisted upon the community these last 10 years.

It is not unreasonable to suggest that those measures delay most journeys by a couple of minutes.  The cost is truly staggering.  In Northampton alone it would amount to £39 million per year. Nation-wide the bill would be in excess of £10 billion, let alone the air pollution
I pointed out on 4th March that Northampton’s endless traffic management schemes have cost many millions of pounds whilst causing delay to all of us every time we drive a car. The cost of that delay is truly staggering.  If each car journey is delayed by two minutes the delay cost in Northampton alone amounts to £39 million per year. Nation-wide the bill is in excess of £10 billion, let alone the air pollution.
That has arisen because the “planners” have a very big and stupid bee in their bonnets driven by Eco Warriors green mantra of “pedestrians first, followed by cyclists, then by people in buses and lastly by people in cars".  Blinded by the vision, they have overlooked the obvious, namely, in today’s world over 80% of travel is by car. Furthermore the car has enabled the present dispersed land use which is, by definition, nearly impossible to serve by bus.  If it were otherwise that land use would have generated in the past but it did not

Notwithstanding that, the pipe dream goes on.  They plan for orbital bus routes, park and ride, ever higher parking charges and yet more restrictions on the car.  Worse still, when a major development is planned they call on these untested “policies” and claim that, although the development will produce perhaps tens of thousands of vehicle per day, congestion will be no worse than it is today, or even reduced.

Let us hope our Councilors have the strength of will and common sense to stop (and painfully reverse) this expensive nonsense.

Meanwhile our Eco Warriors should note that the carbon emission from walking to the shops is said to be greater than that from driving. After all, our energetic walker fuels the trip with loads of baked beans, bangers and mash. Furthermore, a subsidised bus, lumbering around with a couple of passengers aboard, is one of the most environmentally damaging modes of transport known to man.

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT                                                                                  Ref. Juncts04 19th March 2009

Over the last 20 years of the Council has spent millions of pounds on the road junctions in Northampton. The sad result is that there is now endless congestion and air pollution where none need exist. 

That has been achieved by deliberately narrowing roads just where capacity is most needed, or by allocating a complete lane to an occasional bus, or to a minor turning movement, or by having all the traffic lights showing red long after green would be sensible at least somewhere, let alone the banned turns, which lengthen journeys and overload other junctions.  In addition there are pelican crossings by the dozen (costing £100,000 each) showing red long after a lone pedestrian may have crossed.

In short the traffic engineers appear to have a brief to bring us to a complete standstill in the name of the environment and the occasional bus.  (The consultant also earns 12% to 15% for every pound his staff succeed in spending on these ridiculous schemes, let alone the speed humps).

The latest fiascos are (a) the junction at the south end of St Andrew’s Road where no, no, no, you must not turn right or left into or out of that road or go straight ahead up Marefair (b) the extraordinary 43 signals at the St Peters way roundabout and (c) the banning of left or right turns into Gold Street.  The cost – at least £1.5 million let alone the inconvenience to the motorist.

The combined effect of all the schemes in the town will be to delay or divert tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of vehicles each day.  If 100,000 suffer either a one minute delay, or are diverted by half a kilometre (100 yards more than a quarter of a mile), then the cost amounts to £8.50 million pounds per year for ever and ever.

No wonder the town is dying – it has simply lost its head – as have those elected to lead us.

St ANDREWS ROAD                                                                                                      Ref Juncts 04  4th March 2009

There have been considerable complaints about the junction at the south end of St Andrews Road, where, inexplicable, left and right turns are banned along with a straight on movement, complaints about the extraordinary 43 signals at the roundabout on St Peter Way and yet more complaints about the banned turns from Marefair to Gold Street. There are of course many other schemes that are equally stupid scattered across the town.

Not only have the schemes cost millions of pounds to build but they cause congestion and air pollution where none need exist.  That has been achieved by deliberately narrowing a road just where capacity is most needed, or by allocating a complete lane to an occasional bus or to a minor turning movement, or by having all the traffic lights showing red long after green would be sensible at least somewhere, let alone the banned turns, which lengthen journeys and overload other junntions.

The economic cost is huge. A one-minute delay to as few as 1,000 vehicles per day costs £82,000 in lost time over a full year.  Similarly, if 1,000 vehicles per day drive half a kilometre (one quarter of a mile plus 100 yards) further than necessary, due to a banned turn, then the cost is £88,700 per year.

The combined effect of all the schemes that have been introduced in Northampton will be to delay or divert tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of vehicles.  If 100,000 per day suffer either a one minute delay, or are diverted by half a kilometre, then the cost amounts to £8.50 million pounds per year for ever and ever.

That has arisen because the traffic engineers have a brief to bring us to a complete standstill in the name of the environment and the occasional bus.  (The consultant also earns 12% to 15% for every pound his staff succeed in spending on these ridiculous schemes, let alone the speed humps).

No wonder the town is dying – it has simply lost its head – as have those elected to lead us.

CAR UNFRIENDLY NORTHAMPTON                                                                  Ref Speed07: 4th June 2008

Your headline of 21st overlooked two major issues. Firstly there has been an extraordinary increase in the number of traffic signals both at junctions and for pedestrians.  These cause congestion and air pollution where none need exist. Secondly we have the speed cameras busily dishing out fines and license points on people who are driving sensibly for the conditions.

The authorities may claim that both measures have reduced the killed and seriously injured (KSI) casualties.  However, a close inspection of the data shows that, in the period prior to 1996, when there were few if any special measures, the KSIs fell by nearly 5% per year within the County as whole but by only 3.6% subsequently.  That has arisen despite the cameras being supported by hundreds if not thousands of speed humps and endless traffic management schemes . The implication is that if they and not built a single hump or installed a single additional set of traffic lights and if they had steadfastly refused to play with speed cameras then we would have fewer KSI casualties today than now occur. The collapse of that beneficial trend is even worse at the national level when deaths alone are considered.

Perhaps in the light of the data they will get real and embark on a traffic light and speed hump eradication programme - coupled with a sandbagging of the speed cameras.  Hopefully that will not cost as much as the many millions spent bring the Northampton to a near standstill.



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