Government refuses to pledge abandoning road changes if they are shown to lead to deaths

Josh Salisbury (04 November, 2020)

'Emergency services have been generally supportive of road layout changes' said the Department for Transport

39152An ambulance appears to do a u-turn at roadblock in Walworth in September

The government has declined to order the abandoning of road changes such as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods if it could be shown they are causing deaths.

In response to questions by Bermondsey and Old Southwark MP, Neil Coyle, the Department for Transport’s Rachel Maclean said the government has made no assessment of how road changes are impacting the emergency services.

Mr Coyle asked if the government would commit to ordering recent road changes be abandoned “in the event that it is shown that those restrictions are causing deaths that would have been avoided without their imposition.”

Ms Maclean said the road changes were ultimately the responsibility of local councils.

“The Department has made no assessment of how the emergency services have been affected by the introduction of new road layouts,” she said.

“It is for local authorities to ensure that any changes they propose to make to road layouts are delivered in line with relevant legislation, and consultation and noticing requirements.”

The emergency services are required to be consulted about changes made under a Traffic Regulation Order.

While the government has made no assessment of how the changes have affected emergency services, Ms Maclean said some have found it positive because it means some streets are less congested.

“Emergency services have been generally supportive of road layout changes, such as low-traffic neighbourhoods and, in some cases, their access has improved because narrow, unsuitable roads are no longer full of traffic,” she said.

In Southwark, the London Ambulance Service has consistently opposed hard road closures, over fears that they could increase response times.  The Met Police has also indicated to Southwark they do not support hard road closures, instead preferring camera-operated roadblocks.

The issue will be discussed at a council meeting on Wednesday evening, after the News has gone to press.  Philip Morton, the head of Southwark’s Fire Brigade, is due to attend, as well as council officials responsible for roads.

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