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Give traffic lights the red signal

Craske Cllr Peter Craske, Cabinet Member for Transport on Bexley Council, says reducing the number of traffic lights will be a key Boris achievement

It is of course great news that Boris is running again and the reactions of The Guardian, etc, that he hasn’t achieved anything are as predictable as they are wrong.

His greatest achievement has surely been to freeze council tax for all Londoners, as compared to increasing it by 154% as Ken Livingstone did.

There are also some great achievements and legacies that will last in transport. The Boris Bikes have proved to be a huge success, to the utter dismay of those on the left who wanted to see a bike hire scheme, but can’t possible accept Boris is the one that has delivered it.

He has fundamentally reformed the way Transport for London provides funding to the boroughs. There was an absurdly complicated system of being required to bid for 21 different categories of funds, that forced Boroughs to introduce 50 metre cycle lanes in order to secure money for other project. That has been replaced with a simple system with three broad funding areas to work from.

However, his commitment to reduce the number of traffic lights across London will leave a legacy that will be durable.

As anyone who has been to the New Forest will know, there are queues that stretch back for several miles in all directions on the approach to Lyndhurst, solely because of a single set of lights in the middle of the town, and trying to get round Trafalgar Square on a bus takes forever.

We all have our own hated set of lights – mine is a set in the middle of the bus lane that leads to The O2, which exist solely to allow the odd car out from the public house next to it. In all the time I have been that way, I have never seen a single car drive out from the pub, yet all buses are required to stop every time they use the bus lane, even though the point of the bus lane is to speed up journeys.

In Bexley we pioneered this idea two years ago, with great success.

We had three sets of lights within 600 metres in Sidcup, all of which worked independently of each other, so you could be held on red at the first set, while the second set was green, only for those lights to go red as you were given green and so on.

It could take 20 minutes just to get through these three sets of lights. We took the decision to remove two sets, and guess what; the jams that filled the air with pollution, frustrated drivers and encouraged rat-running have vanished, and it now takes only a couple of minutes at most to get along this stretch of the road.

We have just published plans to remove at least three sets of lights from Bexleyheath town centre, and are now identifying further sites for such action.

Transport for London also recently published the sites on their road network where lights appear to exist for the sake of it.

Of course, the reaction from the Left has been hilarious to watch, with laughable claims that people will just start being run over by huge lorries if any lights are removed from anywhere in London.

Jenny Jones, the Green Assembly Member, has written a pompous letter to Council Chief Executives across London demanding they tell her all the plans they have for removing lights, even when she hasn’t even seen the sites for herself.

I’m not sure what it has to do with her in the first place, but it is surely bizarre to see a Green opposing something that would actually lower pollution, with vehicles not being trapped in one place for a long time with their engines on, just to clear a set of lights, especially as it also leaves buses stuck in the same delays.

The evidence of our experience shows that removing lights can have a dramatic and immediate impact, it smoothes traffic flow and people simply cross the road somewhere else. And no-one is being run over all
day long.

If Boris can remove lights that have gone in for the sake of it, as opposed to whether they were actually needed then that is something Londoners will see the benefits of for many years to come.

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