No need to raise VAT – there is a source of cuts to dent the deficit and benefit us all

Not all cuts spell pain. The traffic control industry is ripe for reform that could bring massive savings as well as a transformation in road safety, congestion and quality of life. The industry is assumed to promote our well-being, but it operates to our detriment. With journey times at an all-time high, and 30,000 killed or hurt on our roads every year, the system is plainly unfit.

Most traffic control is a vain attempt to cure the symptoms of our problems on the road. Why do we have traffic lights? To break the priority streams of traffic so others can cross. Remove the cause of dangerous conflict – priority – and you remove the “need” for lights, and the need for speed, enabling everyone to do what is natural, safe and efficient: approach carefully and filter more or less in turn.

At major junctions at peak times, traffic control can be useful. Otherwise, the best guide to action is our natural ability to negotiate movement based on context. In negating that ability, the current system squanders infinite filtering opportunities and infinite expressions of fellow feeling…

Read the rest of the article on ConservativeHome. Martin Cassini’s article for Economic Affairs, “Traffic Lights: Weapons of Mass Distraction, Danger and Delay”, can be downloaded here.

I seem to remember that when Ralph Harris joined the House of Lords, he teamed up with a (cross-bench) group that tried to bring in a rule that if the government wanted to bring in a new law, it had to repeal an old one.Could one apply a similar approach to traffic lights? If a local council (or whoever is responsible in any area) wanted to install a new set of traffic lights, why not require them to withdraw at least one existing set? (This thought first occurred to me in connection with accounting standards; but I’m now more revolutionary on that topic!)

Part of the reason for the explosion of traffic controls in recent years has been the availability to local authorities of central government funding for traffic calming and other forms of ‘road safety schemes’. This area of the transport budget could easily be cut. More anecdotallly, on every occasion when I have driven through busy junctions when the traffic lights have not been working I have noticed that the usual congestion has disappeared. Martin is quite right that the majority of controls should be removed.

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