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Traffic Policing and Technology: Getting the Balance Right (HC 975-ii)

Transport Committee 15 Mar 2006

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Evidence Ms Lorna Pearce, Senior Project Manager, and Dr Jeremy Broughton, Senior Research Fellow, Transport Research Laboratory; Mr Neal Skelton, Head of Professional Services, Intelligent Transport Society UK; and Dr Claire Corbett, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences and Law, Brunel University, Mr Steve Thornton, Principal Engineer, City of Bradford and Chair of West Yorkshire Road Safety Strategy Group, Mr Dave Sherborne, Casualty Reduction Manager, Leeds City Council, West Yorkshire Road Safety Strategy Group; Lt Col Tex Pemberton, Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, and Mr Rob Salmon, Assistant Head of Highways and Transport, West Sussex County Council; and Mr Steve Burton, Deputy Director of Transport Police and Enforcement, and Mr Chris Lines, Head of London Road Safety Unit, Transport for London, Paul Goggins, a Member of the House, Under-Secretary of State Home Office, and Dr Stephen Ladyman, a Member of the House, Minister of State for Transport, Department for Transport.

Q210 Mr. David Clelland: Just to follow up on that question, there must surely be instances where the road conditions generally are similar where in one instance there are fixed speed cameras and in the other there are not? You must be able to make a comparison? Somebody must have done that, surely?

Dr Broughton: Not that I am aware of.

Q211 Mr. David Clelland: Really? Why not? It seems pretty obvious.

Dr Broughton: As I say, when you come down to specific comparisons you will always find differences of traffic flow. It is a much more complicated issue.

Mr. David Clelland: Really? I am surprised.


Q231 Mr. David Clelland: Mr Skelton, you say in your memorandum that automatic number plate recognition equipment has provided 'varying results'. Could you just tell us what the results were?

Mr Skelton: I do not have the specific results with me but I am aware obviously that throughout the 43 police forces in England and Wales there is a different level of adoption by ANPR technology. Whilst there is a national statutory to draw this in line, this is some distance ahead, so, accordingly, the investment has been placed differently in different forces. Certainly there has been a recognition that it is like a domino effect in many respects, that once ANPR is seen to be the effective crime-fighting tool that it is then the adjacent force or adjacent forces adopt that technology quite rapidly but at the present time there is variable uptake.

Q232 Mr. David Clelland: You also say that "other than ANPR there have been no major technological developments to revolutionise roads policing". Does that mean you think there are opportunities which have been missed or wasted?

Mr Skelton: I think that is the current silver bullet. That is the technology that has been fully recognised at the present stage and future technology, for example electronic vehicle identification which is going through very preliminary investigation at the moment, will have a significant impact in the future, but that is a number of years ahead before that is effective.

Q233 Mr Martlew: What will it do?

Mr Skelton: In many respects it is like an ANPR plus. What it will do is it will signify and electronically identify individual vehicles rather than going for the individual vehicle registration mark, which if it is broken, missing or has been corrupted in some form or other, is readily overlooked by the camera system. This sophisticated, internal, electronic vehicle identification linked to the ANPR system giving the visual recognition will give those levels of identification. Tied into the various databases of DVLA, insurance and MOT, it provides a significant tool across the range of criminality, including all the relevant motoring offences.

Q234 Mr. David Clelland: Are there administrative and bureaucratic obstacles to the introduction of new technology, type approval for instance? Do these cause delays? Can anything be done about speeding up the process?

Mr Skelton: There are inherent delays in the type approval process, but I am aware that they are really going as fast as they can go because the type approval process seeks to eradicate subsequent challenges and costly court implications. So if you tried to speed it up you probably could but there will be retrospective effects, I would be sure.

Q235 Mr. David Clelland: What about red light running cameras at traffic light junctions; should all junctions be equipped with that sort of equipment?

Mr Skelton: I think again it is relevant to the circumstances in the location. I think if you just have it as a de facto establishment, you end up with a risk of complacency potentially. By having the cameras at specified locations, even if the camera does not identify the driver, the identification of the camera at that site should give the driver a recognition that that is a dangerous junction rather than just a blanket coverage.


Mr Thornton: A major part of our success in selling cameras to local people is our publicity is wherever you see a camera someone has been killed or seriously injured, and in general that is the way we have been able to gain community support.

Lt Col Pemberton: I support that view, if I may.

Mr. David Clelland: Do you think local authorities devote sufficient time and resources to advanced planning for the use of technology?

Q288 Chairman: Who is going to risk their reputation?

Mr Salmon: I will make a comment. I think we would like to spend a lot more time doing it than we do. We are combining here data management, public information and integration of data collection in a way that actually allows us to work as a partnership. I think the technology question is always going to be limited by funds and we would always like to say let's do more. We do not do as much as we would like to.

Mr Sherborne: One of the important things of the use of technology that we ought to be doing more is working out ways to use new technology to get all this information to the general public. To come back to what the gentleman on my far right has been saying, education is the most important tool we have. We know this information about injury accidents, where they happen, the causes. We need to try and get it out more to the general public through GI systems, the internet is becoming more and more useful, and to make the web sites that local authorities and central government put out more attractive to people.


Q291 Mr. David Clelland: Are local authorities generally successful at picking up on new technology? Is information easily available and accessible or could this be improved?

Mr Salmon: We are aware of the new technology that is around both through work done by TRL and other research bodies we have mentioned earlier.. We have regular links across Europe through POLIS, the Department of Transport and the Counter-Surveillance Society which we are engaged with, so we are active in that sense. It is a question of where is the priority for investment and delivery.

Mr Lines: It is very similar for London. Additionally, we have a research arm in Transport for London on road safety and that produces reports - for example, the TRL reports - and we assimilate those through the Pan-London Safety Forum to all the stakeholders in London. We have a very good way of disseminating the reports that Lorna and TRL provide through the boroughs and police in London.

Mr Thornton: As an example, I have recently been working with consultants in London and they have been looking at a dual carriageway improvement for a road in Auckland, New Zealand. Two of us had Global Earth on screen and we were looking at an example in Bradford so we could discuss it in London and transmit it to Auckland, so new technology certainly is being used.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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