Fewer traffic lights could save delays and £16bn

Getting rid of many traffic lights would save delays and billions of pounds, says a think tank.

Getting rid of many traffic lights would save delays and billions of pounds, says a think tank. - Credit: supplied

The UK could afford to lose around 80% of traffic lights that cause unnecessary delays which cause a loss of up to £16bn a year, according to a report.

Research by the Institute of Economic Affairs found the cumulative effect of traffic regulation measures 'imposes an enormous burden on the UK economy'.

The think tank found that just a two-minute delay to every car journey equates to a loss of approximately £16bn a year.

The report – Seeing Red: Traffic Controls and the Economy – said: 'Not only is a high proportion of traffic regulation detrimental to road safety, the economy and the environment, it also imposes huge costs on road-users, taxpayers and communities.'

It states: 'Traffic signals could be taken out where they cause unnecessary delays, perhaps following Portishead-style trials where lights are switched off for several weeks to observe the impact.'

Successful schemes in Drachten in the Netherlands in 2002 and Bohmte in Germany (in 2007) scrapped more than 80% of their traffic lights.

Dr Richard Wellings, report author and head of transport at the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: 'For too long policy-makers have failed to make a cost-benefit analysis of a range of regulations – including traffic lights, speed cameras and bus lanes – making life a misery from drivers nationwide.

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'It's quite clear that traffic management has spread far beyond the locations where it might be justified, to the detriment of the economy, environment and road safety.'

The suggestion is that many traffic lights should be replaced by filter-in-turn or all-way give-ways. Many bus lanes, cycle lanes, speed cameras and parking restrictions should also go.

From 2000 to 2014 the number of traffic lights on Britain's roads increased by 25%, the report said. Britain's first speed camera was installed in 1992, but by 2012 there were more than 3,000 at 2,300 fixed sites.

Responding to the report, the Department for Transport said the safety of Britain's roads was paramount.

'Road accidents come with a human cost which unfortunately, as families across the country know, is far too high,' it added. 'Local councils are responsible for managing their networks in such a way as to balance the needs of all users. We provide guidance on designing and implementing measures but it is up to the authorities to decide how best to implement them.'