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Minister says he'll consider switching off traffic lights to help ease congestion

IEA report recommending removal of traffic lights also claims that cycle lanes have ‘unfortunate’ effects on motorists

Stating that “traffic is said to flow more freely" when traffic lights are not working in his constituency, road safety minister Andrew Jones has said he will consider switching off traffic lights to reduce congestion. He did however also express serious reservations with regards to the possible impact on safety.

The Telegraph reports that the idea was put forward by Conservative MP, Philip Hollobone.

Addressing Jones in the House of Commons, Hollobone said:

"One of the problems for local bus passengers is congestion and delays, and people in Kettering always say that when the traffic lights stop working, the traffic flows much better. So given that you are responsible for local roads, will you consider undertaking a pilot where we could switch traffic lights off and get traffic and buses flowing more freely?"

Jones didn’t rule out such a trial, but admitted to having “major reservations” on safety grounds. "I will have a look at what you say but I think we should be very cautious about removing traffic lights because they're a key ingredient in road safety."

Earlier this year, a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs suggested there was an economic case for the UK to lose 80 per cent of its traffic lights.

The number of traffic lights in England increased by 25 per cent between 2000 and 2014, even though there was just a five per cent increase in traffic in that time.

Report author and head of transport at the Institute of Economic Affairs Dr Richard Wellings 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.

"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 evidence of shared space schemes shows the transformational benefits of less regulated approach, whilst the removal of a high proportion of traffic lights would deliver substantial economic and social benefits."

The report also said that cycle lanes, bus lanes, advanced stop lines and 20mph zones in urban areas have "unfortunate" effects on motorists. In response, the Department for Transport emphasised that travel times and the consequent economic impact were far from being the only considerations.

"Road accidents come with a human cost which unfortunately, as families across the country know, is far too high.

"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."

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