I\’m sorry, say that again?

Up until now the Department for Transport discouraged such schemes, increasing motorists\’ frustration at being met by a succession of red lights.

It was because the Government feared motorists who were travelling smoothly, rather than stopping and starting, would use less fuel and pay less to the Treasury in duty as a result.

I beg your pardon? Traffic schemes were deliberately designed so as to increase journey times, increase congestion and increase fuel usage?

Now the Government has decided to scrap these provisions in its latest guidance to councils on transport schemes known as NATA – or "New Approach to Appraisal", as it is known in full.

The new rules no longer treat the cut in the amount of fuel used and tax paid as a "cost" to the public purse.

I boggle, truly, I boggle at the earlier system.

I tend to think of myself as a progressive….that is, one who believes in the power of government to make life better. Where I part company with many other self-described progressives is that I believe that, often enough at least, the power of government to improve our lives is that they stop doing whatever damn fool thing it is that government is currently doing.

Seriously, they were setting traffic lights so as to maximise fuel use?

12 comments on “I\’m sorry, say that again?

  1. That’s true. In Bath and Bristol they had a traffic light sequencing system called Scoot that was supposed to sequence the lights so that you always met green and not red. They fiddled with it to increase congestion so they could try to apply for a road charging scheme to reduce the ‘congestion’ they’d created. I think we’re only beginning to glimpse the cynicism and mendacity of the public sector.

  2. They weren’t necessarily setting traffic lights to maximise fuel use, but reducing tax take was counted aganst a government project (as one of many criteria).

    Here’s a handy guide.

    http://www.rfg.org.uk/files/r80329NATA.doc

    The new proposals should benefit public transport and cycling which is good as well.

  3. Tim, since you are a stickler for such things, permit another stickler to point out that “I beg your pardon” is not a question …

  4. Just another way that the public sector manipulates us to grab more of our cash.

    A while ago we worked out that if you were caught by a light when they turned green if you accelerated to 15mph above the limit you got a string of greens. Rush hour flowed fine. Sadly, they then introduced new cameras and congestion is back.

    Road planning doesn’t mean what we thought it meant. It probably hasn’t since the 90s.

  5. Not a driver Tim? If not I’m frankly amazed you hadn’t noticed!

    Not only traffic light sequences, road ‘upgrades’ of all kinds, putting many sets of traffic lights where they are simply not needed, closing off cut through roads. Everything they do to the roads seems to be designed to get us off of them, or pay more in wear and tear and tax.

    I’m just amazed they admit it and are thinking about changing it, admittedly just one trial road by the sound of this story…

  6. I hate to sound like one of those internet tits who greets every assertion with a demand for “sources?”, but this assertion-

    “It was because the Government feared motorists who were travelling smoothly, rather than stopping and starting, would use less fuel and pay less to the Treasury in duty as a result.”

    – was this an actual government policy? Do we have some proof of this? Or is this just the opinion of the journalist?

  7. I’ve heard it asserted before that this was Government policy. I didn’t believe it because I don’t think they are that clever.

  8. I would expect that applying this degree of coherence to a system of traffic lights would require networking together the lights, traffic sensors, and microprocessors to control them all. So the system, cabling, installation etc would all cost money. If you did a cost-benefit analysis taking only money into account, it would not be worthwhile. You could show no financial gain to offset the system costs.

    I think that is a likelier reason for the government to drag their feet.

  9. No, traffic schemes were deliberately designed to maximise inconvenience; increasing fuel usage and thereby tax take was a (useful) side-effect.

    The idea was to get everyone to travel by train and bus, remember? So make your car-journey a hell of arbitrary speed restrictions, endless pointless traffic lights, stupid lane restrictions, etc. Reduce the size of all main roads by 50% using bus lanes (see Edinburgh), and generally do everything to obstruct and slow down the motorist.

    Then they all get on the nice clean green bus.

    Except they didn’t.

    As usual the State is not your friend

  10. @Monty – trasffic lighst in large cities are all connected to a central point, via copper. This, in part, allows them to create a “green wave” for emergency vehicles.

    I like the idea that bureaucrats have planned to make something inefficient. I thought that came as standard.

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