Speech

TSRGD 2015: consultation roadshow

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Robert Goodwill explains the changes to Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions.

Good morning.

I’m sorry I cannot be with you in person. I know you have a busy day ahead, but I would like to take a few minutes to focus on what we are doing in transport to help create economic growth, and to deliver the coalition government’s vision for a sustainable transport system.

I am delighted that these roadshows are taking place in tandem with our consultation on changes to TSRGD. We want people like you – the professionals in the field – to be able to get on with delivering better, smarter roads, with as few legislative barriers and delays where sensible.

We ask traffic management to deliver a number of objectives in parallel and managing those competing demands on our roads will never be simple.

The UK has more motor vehicles per mile than France, Germany or even the densely populated Netherlands.

And traffic on our roads is forecast to increase.

That’s why we are investing £24 billion in the strategic road network in this Parliament and the next.

And by 2021 we will be spending £3 billion each year on improvements and maintenance.

To encourage both cycling take up and safety, the new TSRGD includes many more changes, such as:

  • low-level mini signals, and cycle filters giving cyclists a ‘head start’
  • new shared use cycle and zebra crossings
  • new rules of advanced stop lines
  • removing the need for traffic regulation orders for cycle lanes and exemptions for cyclists

Traffic signs play an integral role in all traffic management schemes - from the smallest of road works, to opening the hard shoulder to flowing traffic to maximise capacity as part of the smart motorways programme.

Traffic management and our nation’s signing system has an absolutely vital role to play. Effective traffic management provides the arteries for jobs and industry, lays the foundation for growth and UK competitiveness, and enables people, goods and services to get to where they need to be.

I have seen it go wrong in my own constituency of Scarborough where badly designed traffic signing caused disruption and confusion.

As a regular driver to London I see how important traffic signs are – even in this technological age they remain the only means of communicating to all road users.

And sometimes the best message is to say nothing; and that should be the ultimate aim of a variable message sign – to say nothing - as this means the road network is operating smoothly.

I say this simply to reinforce that there is a fine balance to be struck between what to say and what not to say.

I am delighted that the Secretary of State initiated the traffic sign de-cluttering award ceremony last year, and with the quality of bids that this elicited.

I am also pleased that the proposed reforms to TSRGD will allow traffic authorities the freedom to place fewer signs.

We have the best traffic signs system in the world and I am determined to keep it that way.

Traffic signing is a complex art form and it is important to get it right. But, the coalition government believes over regulating does not equate to ‘getting it right’.

To do so widens the margin for error, and the size and complexity of TSRGD is a case in point – the experience in my own constituency bears this out.

With extensive guidance in the form of the ‘Traffic signs manual’ and ‘Traffic advisory leaflets’, practitioners will have the tools to provide the appropriate level of traffic signing - without the need for over-bearing regulation.

That is why we’ve developed a new format for the regulations – one that retains national consistency while providing local authorities with the flexibility to use signs that suit their own circumstances.

The proposed new regulations have been thinned out and streamlined to enable this to happen. They have also been restructured to make them more intuitive, with significantly more flexibility built in.

Gone are the constraints over what can appear on parking signs – you will be able to pick and choose from a wide ‘menu’ of clear messages.

Gone too are the mandatory links tying together upright signs and road markings (although we have sensibly left in those for safety-critical junctions and crossings).

For example - take a ‘loading only’ restriction that operates at all times. If you decide that a bay marking on its own is sufficiently clear to the motorist - without an upright sign - then so be it.

Gone also are the strict rules dictating how many signs must be placed - and at what intervals.

We’ve relaxed the rules on sign lighting so that only those signs that are safety critical must be lit when placed within street-lit areas. Whether or not to place warning signs is at your discretion, but how to light them is not! This makes no sense - so we want to change it.

You will hear more details later.

I should stress that these changes are not be an open invitation to take signs down and switch lights off.

The environmental and financial benefits of doing so are obvious, but toad users still need to be informed - or reminded - of what is expected of them - and traffic signs must still be visible.

Decisions by traffic authorities to reduce signing provision, or their illumination, should only be taken on the basis of robust risk analysis - and not forgetting their duties under legislation. You are best placed to make these decisions - it is not our role to make them for you.

I hope this short speech shows we are working on many fronts to help create economic growth and cut carbon. However we cannot do it alone - we need your help to deliver these changes on the ground.

Thank you again for listening, I wish you a successful conference.