Busting congestion

One of my favourite green policies is to ease congestion and get traffic moving smoothly without so much stop start interruption. We could save so much fuel and cut emissions substantially if vans, cars and buses could proceed at a steady pace more often.  Allied to it is greater safety, through better modelled junctions with fewer frustrated drivers taking unreasonable risks.

I have often argued that roundabouts work much better than traffic light controlled junctions to maximise flows and minimise interruptions. Today I wish to share with you some work I have been doing on light phases, following careful observation of a large number of regularly blocked junctions with lights.

One of the common causes of delay is the four phase light set at a conventional crossroads. If we assume a 100 second complete set of phases for the lights then  traffic from east, west, south and north have a green phase just 25% of the time or 25 seconds each way. Traffic from any direction can use that green phase to carry straight on, turn left or turn right when they finally reach the turning points. This means each direction of main road is not being used for 75% of the time, apart from turning traffic.

It would be much better if the lights were rephased so that most of the time east and west traffic have a green light for straight on or left turning, or north and south traffic have green for straight on and left turning. There should be short right filter phases, with one allowing north and south to turn right, and one allowing east and west to turn right.

If we allow 7.5 seconds for each of the two right filter phases, the primary east-west and north-south phases then operate for 42.5 seconds per 100 seconds instead of for 25 seconds.  This gives us a 70% increase in road use or capacity across the junction, which will greatly cut delays and allow more smoother flows of traffic.

Another regular cause of delay at off peaks is lights turning red on main roads to allow access from lightly used side roads when there is no traffic present in them. All light sets allowing side road traffic onto a main  road should have traffic sensors, with constant green for the main road unless traffic is detected, when the normal timings of phases would then kick in.


  1. Mark B
    January 23, 2020

    Good morning.

    Or we could cut the number of cars and the people using them ? Fiddling with traffic light signals while the UK sinks under MASS IMMIGRATION is rather paltry. What is needed is an omission that we have a people problem and that there are simply too many.

    Traffic is like water. It will find the easiest path to its destination and, will attract the most volume, and slow the flow down.

    It was stated on the Nigel Farage show that, for every minute saved between London to Birmingham on HS2, the government will spend £5.25bn. There is no economic, moral or social benefit to this project. No one wants it. Few will use it. The question is, do we have a government for the people or big business ?

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      Indeed why have they not cancelled HS2 yet? Millions more is being wasted every single day they choose to delay. Baron Daniel Finkelstein wrote in favour of HS2 the other day in the paper. Surely this alone is proof it should be cancelled given his record, he is like Mathew Parris in this ability.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 23, 2020

        Anyway, one can work on the train so what is the advantage of getting there ten minutes earlier and then work in some office for that ten minutes rather than on the train?

        Plus you have to consider the connections at each end. Door to door the saving is totally irrelevant for most people. With fewer stops on H/S trains it can even actually take longer door to door.

    2. jerry
      January 23, 2020

      @Mark B; What ever the problem, what ever the issue, blame the immigrants… YAWN.

    3. Martin in Cardiff
      January 23, 2020

      How are all these people, who come here and just live on benefits, and who do not work as you claim supposed to afford cars?

      I agree with John on this project.

      Roundabouts which also have lights completely defeat the point.

      There are systems in other parts of the world where:

      a) There is a low speed limit on them.


      b) Traffic is required to give way alternately to that entering.

      They often work very well. I’ve often noticed that bottlenecks in the UK disappear when the lights fail and drivers are just required to use caution and good manners.

      1. Narrow Shoulders
        January 23, 2020

        Have you looked at the benefits on offer to families Marty?

        The new route to the bourgeoisie such as yourself is to get on universal credit with a few kids and a full time minimum wage job.

        Take home income equivalent of £50K per year before tax are available to those on the gravy train.

    4. Leslie Singleton
      January 23, 2020

      Dear Mark–Always seemed unarguably and blindingly obvious to me that HS1 and HS2 should be connected. I hate the EU in general but in this instance they were right. Think of all that overnight freight and to Hades with the baloney about businessmen working a few minutes longer on their laptops. If a spur in to London from a junction somewhere on the M25 is wanted so be it.

    5. Hope
      January 23, 2020

      Stop mass immigration and stop your govt from lying to the public that it is doing the exact opposite from what it promised over ten years! Public services cannot or keep up the the huge volume of people entering the country.

      A deliberate dishonest mass immigration policy which 71 percent of the public are opposed.

      1. Martin in Cardiff
        January 23, 2020

        I have to smile.

        You rightly condemn the rail operators, for blaming The Wrong Kind Of Snow when they offer a poor service, and yet you fall over yourself to excuse the hitherto austerity-crazed Tories for offering shocking public services such as health and education, on the grounds that there is The Wrong Kind Of Public. Two-out-of-three hospital beds have closed since Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979, yet the population has grown rather, and also aged markedly since then. New arrivals are generally young and fit though.

        It doesn’t add up as an argument really, does it?

        1. Fred H
          January 23, 2020

          Marty – – I hope you are not trying to tell us that Thatcher closed the hospital wards? It was Blair’s governments who did that! Some sort of auto suggestion? Well it failed old chap.

    6. Mark B
      January 23, 2020

      Opps ! For “omission”, read “admission”

    7. Narrow Shoulders
      January 23, 2020

      Today had a well versed expert on its show recently making the capacity case. He stated that running local and express services on the same line was inefficient and more services could be run if they were split.

      What he was not asked was why additional lines, using the current gauge could not be built alongside the existing lines and stations? Surely cheaper and bridges could be raised to permit double decker trains. Has to be cheaper and the infrastructure to get to and from stations to catch the trains already exists.

    8. BOF
      January 23, 2020


      Absolutely agree with your post.

    9. Bob
      January 23, 2020

      @Mark B

      “No one wants it.”

      There are lots of consultants who depend on HS2 to feed their families and keep them warm, usually in luxury tropical resorts. Have a heart!

    10. Anonymous
      January 23, 2020

      HS2 was contentious enough under the original costings, even before we heard that those costs had doubled !

      Surely to God this is not going ahead ?

      The people saying “Yup. It’s still viable and is still going ahead.” are not to be trusted.

      Just imagine what this money could do if used for the whole of the transport infrastructure.

      And yes. I’m in agreement with you. They told us the mass housing development around here was for local demand and yet the area has changed dramatically with gridlocked traffic, oversubscribed services, increases in crime, intimidation, the overpowering stench of cannabis and hip hop graffiti.

    11. bigneil(newercomp)
      January 23, 2020

      Apart from the sheer numbers of mass immigration Mark I’m concerned about the ones that turn up with a fake driving license or have passed a so-called test in their own country only to be let loose here on our roads. Aren’t all of them supposed to take a UK driving test after being here so long? Some come from places where a tarmac covered road is a novelty and driving on either side is normal. Then are let loose to drive on a four lane either side motorway.

    12. turboterrier
      January 23, 2020

      Mark B

      In total agreement.

      The country has to address the real problem and stop coming up with solutions.

    13. Iago
      January 23, 2020

      It seems a very sensible idea, worth trying and that should be straightforward, – and our replacements may appreciate it!

  2. Lifelogic
    January 23, 2020

    Much truth in all that. In London occasionally, some years back, all the traffic lights would fail and the traffic would flow far better with them all out.

    Traffic light are also rather dangerous as they encourage people to speed up to get through them (just at the most dangerous points where people and other vehicles may be crossing). The government policy for years seems to have been to block the roads and refuse to build new ones. This is justified by the (largely untrue) claim that trains, buses, bikes and walking are more green and energy efficient.

    Constricting roads is almost as popular with them as fining motorists for and excuse they can find. Bus lanes (usually empty) that can halve overall road capacity for example but generate fine income. Sufficient parking is also needed so people do not have to drive round and round to find somewhere to park. If you must deter cars they charging them to per mile use certain roads make far more sense than causing congestion and delaying them for hours. This also raises more for more road space provision. There is plenty of room if you build overpasses and tunnels as needed. Cars can now be very clean (at least not polluting while in the cities) so what is the problem?

    1. Stred
      January 23, 2020

      Cycle lanes have been constructed along arterial dual carriageway roads in London, reducing the road to one lane. This has resulted in journey times from Westminster to Tower Bridge increasing by a factor of five. It also ensures that cyclists breathe in maximum pollution. The mayors planned this and are proposing more.

    2. jerry
      January 23, 2020

      @LL; “they encourage people to speed up to get through them (just at the most dangerous points where people and other vehicles may be crossing).”

      You mean drivers jump red lights, well they can and do just barge onto roundabouts too, not give way at crossroads! Any road is dangerous when the drivers are being reckless – perhaps the real solution is for more Bobbies on the beat doing Point Duty, with far harsher and perhaps instant penalties for those drivers who think the law and Highway code doesn’t apply to them! Driving is a privilege, not a right.

      As for successive governments not building new or improving existing roads, yes they use green arguments but the real reason is financial because people like you are always bleating that you want ever more tax cuts – new roads do not build themselves…

    3. glen cullen
      January 23, 2020

      A few years ago Liverpool City Council reserved and brought ‘bus lanes’ back into normal road use, the result has been to speed up traffic. It was a 12mth trial but remains today

      I am surprised that no long term study of its success has been undertaken

    4. Hope
      January 23, 2020

      It would be best if the Tory party and govt restored some conservatism within the party. A good start would to to listen to Trumps speech at Davos. All those left wingers present might be offended by conservative values, ideas and action. Trump puts the Wests industrialisation of the world first because it is what created better standards of living around the world including the poorest countries.

      China must be laughing its head off, selling precious metal for magnets in wind farm machines, selling cheap steel around the world, producing cheap goods bought by every country and all from coal fired power stations. While our Tory govt taxes us hand over fist to make it feel better to the left wing fanatics! Similar to overseas aid scam, immigration- think tank today highlights that Johnson’s plan not to remove lower wage limit will increase immigration.

      So the Tory govt advocates moving jobs abroad to China, India and other brick countries without making a jot of difference to the environment. Same for the stupid Paris agreement and other such nonsensical green garbage that Johnson has swallowed………

    5. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      The Health Secretary (on the coronavirus) says “we are well prepared and well equipped to deal with them”……. “the NHS is ready to respond to any cases”.

      Rather surprising as they are so hopeless at the existing demands on them. Not that I expect this latest virus scare to be very serious in the general context of nearly a million deaths PA in the UK. NHS negligence and delays probably kills far more each week.

  3. Bob Dixon
    January 23, 2020

    In my town vans leave their engines running. Many cars also do not switch off their engines while they wait for the passenger to return from an errand.
    The pollution is very noticeable.What is the answer?

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      More parking, so they can park properly and get out – rather than hanging around to avoid getting a parking ticket.

      Also car heating and cooling that works without the engines on perhaps? In London the chauffeur drivers seem to be the worst for this often in huge cars with the air con on.

    2. Everhopeful
      January 23, 2020

      In my town they draw up on the pavement..blocking it. Shut kids in car …engine running and go into whatever shop.
      Fumes akimbo.
      And who can stop them?

  4. Lifelogic
    January 23, 2020

    It is totally irrational that taxis allowed in bus lanes when taxis are clearly far less efficient than a private cars? This as they need a professional driver (perhaps not for much longer) and also they spend much of their time travelling round with no passengers to pick them up. Often making a double journey for one useful one. Furthermore why are some taxes allowed in bus lanes and not others – in some kind of irrational taxi apartheid?

    This making of a double journey for one useful one often applies to computer trains or buses as they return from town largely empty and visa versa on the reverse commute. A private car does not need to do this. Plus with trains you often have a double car or taxis connection journey at each end to and from the stations.

    It was encouraging on NIGEL Farage (LBC) last night how few of the callers are taken in by the prophets of doom and the endless misguided propaganda from the BBC. Rather like Brexit. Most, rightly in my view, supported the Trump line and not Prince Charles and the deluded 17 year old who is surely being used in what to me looks like a form of child abuse. Charles and Greta types offer no solutions at all – even if you accept their bogus carbon “pollution” religion.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      Charles is surely rather foolish, when he is likely to be crowned King shortly, to take such a public & political line on climate alarmism and other issues, even calling for higher taxes and more expensive energy for the public many of whom struggle to keep warm. He should keep well out of it, as his sensible mother has. This especially when he is totally wrong anyway, as one might expect of someone with two A levels (B and C in French & History) a degree in Arch. and Anth. from Trinity Cambridge and who supports alternative medicine and homeopathy.

      So people should pay more taxes so the NHS can perform pointless medicine on people and push up energy prices – what a great plan. This while spending £1 million plus PA just on his personal transport.

    2. Nig l
      January 23, 2020

      So someone who is 17 is deluded because they have a different point of view, throw in the BBC, a few useless’s and we have your daily dose of epithets.i suppose you didn’t include the Banks so that is kind of a blessing.

      I do not necessarily agree with her but a breath of fresh air that has bought real vigour and a heightened awareness to a very important topic and her courage and commitment should be praised not insulted because of her age, by an old person who always thinks their views are the only ones that matter.

      Indeed if anyone’s views are deluded yours are. The Green agenda train pulled out of your station ages ago leaving you far behind and for the next generations’ future so much the better.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 23, 2020

        So what solutions does Greta have? We all travel in £million racing yachts perhaps or sand yachts on land? Does she have a clue about energy, engineering, physics, chaotic climate systems ….?

        1. Narrow Shoulders
          January 23, 2020

          I am with @life here Nig.

          I have no time for “you must.” While operating in a vacuum. I want to hear “this is how” from someone can has invented something and who isn’t a convenient, presentable figurehead for a cause.

          She is like Farage. Worshipped by the converts, despised for oversimplifying and popularising the debate by unbelievers.

          1. hefner
            January 23, 2020

            NS, don’t you think your last paragraph could nicely apply to the contributor above. What does a non-dom multi-property owner that appears to get his science ‘information’ only from various dailies actually really know about a system as complex as weather and climate with its mix of thermodynamics, dynamics, (photo)chemistry, physics, plant biology, …
            In a way, is he not also worshipped by some on this blog despite his rather vacuous and repetitive ramblings.

          2. Narrow Shoulders
            January 24, 2020

            Touche Hef

            However our contributor is not held up by national / international media as a paragon of virtue and on this site the contributor’s views do receive scrutiny to go with adulation which is more than we can say for the climatress.

    3. jerry
      January 23, 2020

      @LL; Thanks for the LAUGH, classic, so a taxi driver has to pass a professional test, next you’ll be calling HGV drivers less efficient too…

      Yes many commuter trains have less passengers on their return journey, but so what, they have been far more efficient in first leg of their journey, name me a car or bus that can transport a 100 people in a single end to end trip, never mind up to 1000 in one such trip.

      On the other hand you suggest a private car does one trip up and one trip down each day in comparison, find until you multiply that by 10,000 such trips all at the same time, and how much land has to be given over to storing those cars! Let me guess Mr Life, as part of your property portfolio you also own or have shares in privately managed car parks?

      1. Lifelogic
        January 24, 2020

        No alas I do not own any car parks.

    4. Hope
      January 23, 2020

      The hysteria has become rediculous. A former climate advisor made the claim on Sky yesterday that the Australian bush fires were a direct result of man made climate change! There is no evidence whatsoever. These looney tunes advising our govt!

      In the past 450,000 years there has been four ice age periods acting 100,000 years each. Man did not create climate change to bring about ice age periods. Moreover we were warned in the 1970’s our man made climate,change would bring about an ice age, now the opposite!

    5. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      Yet another new tax and more red tape for employers announced by Ms. Andrea Leadsom today. Jack’s Law: Paid bereavement leave for parents who lose a child to start in April.

      Of course any sensible employee would try to be understanding and do what they could under these circumstances. But forcing them by making this a employment right is a very foolish and damaging thing to do. The employer would no longer be being kind, understanding and generous it would become a right in law. It also suggest that this will indeed be another tax borrow and over regulate socialist government in essence exactly the wrong signal to send. What next, will private landlords have to give them a free months rent too by law?

      1. Martin in Cardiff
        January 23, 2020

        What a charmer you are.

        1. Lifelogic
          January 24, 2020

          You seem to have misunderstood. I am not saying employers should not do what they can to help. I am just objecting to the mandating of this by law.

      2. Lifelogic
        January 24, 2020

        Employer would be understanding = I meant.

    6. Leaver
      January 23, 2020

      I broadly agree with Trump – that the economy cannot be sacrificed on the altar of the environment.

      Also, like him, I think there is a lot of doom-mongering.

      However, that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the environment. Also, the costs of fires, flooding and the other consequences of climate change are growing year on year. You might be happy paying the bill. I am not. The economy and the environment are becoming increasingly interconnected.

      1. DaveK
        January 23, 2020

        It should also be noticed that two topics are being merged together. Looking after the environment and the Climate Change scam.All right thinking people want to stop plastic getting into the environment and to improve air quality, however linking it to the alarmist religion is a political ideology. Weather becomes Climate with zealots such as the BBC who will not listen to any evidence against the hypothesis. As to the costs increasing, that’s obviously more to do with the value of damaged property than the scale of each event. Proper research shows these extreme events are decreasing. The unintended consequences of the Green Blob will cause more harm than their fantasy model projections.

        1. Leaver
          January 23, 2020

          Maybe. I fear that Australia is going to land us with a huge insurance bill. The UK has a massive insurance industry – and the bill is going up one way or another.

          Also, I don’t think climate change is a hoax. The only alternative explanations are sunspots, magnetic fields and cosmic rays – all of which sound like a load of left-wing hippie rubbish to me. Nor is cherry-picking a few glaciers in Montana. I may be sceptical about the doom-mongering – but I do believe that pumping loads of methane, carbon dioxide, CFCs and so forth is going to have an effect. There is no other plausible explanation I can think of – but I’m all ears if you can give me one.

      2. Edward2
        January 23, 2020

        Did you know Leaver that the number if people killed by extreme weather events has fallen by 90 from decades ago?
        And that the number of extreme weather events hasn’t really increased?

        1. Edward2
          January 24, 2020

          90% it should say.

        2. hefner
          January 24, 2020

          Even the Reason Foundation (reason.org) (a think-tank that defines itself as libertarian (whatever that means)) says that the decrease in the number of people killed by extreme weather events since the 1920s is linked to globally more affluent and better informed people and technological advances in warning systems (weather forecasts, and since the 80s monitoring by satellites). So we certainly see a better adaptation to what nature might throw at us.
          Does this guarantee the truth of your second assertion?

          1. Edward2
            January 24, 2020

            Yet there are billions more people on the planet compared with decades ago.
            You might have expected more people would be killed.
            Instead there has been a dramatic reduction.

            24 hour worldwide TV news coverage makes many think more are being killed and that there is far more extreme weather events but that is not correct.

    7. hefner
      January 23, 2020

      “The amount of money raised by existing investment trusts issuing new shares reached £6.9 billion in 2019, beating the previous all-time high of £6.3 bn in 2017 … Nearly a quarter of the fundraising (£1.6 bn) was derived from the renewable energy infrastructure sector … The biggest fundraisings were The Renewables Infrastructure Group (£530 m) and Greencoat UK Wind (£506 m)”. (from Money Observer, Feb.2020, p5).

      Could it be that investors (pension funds and both corporate and private investors) know a few things that most on this site do not have a clue about?

      1. Edward2
        January 24, 2020

        There are big profits to be made in these heavily subsidised markets as government policies are driven by the UN IPCC and the Paris Accord, the green deals and the requirements of our own Climate Change Act.

        1. hefner
          January 24, 2020

          If you say so. But your comment only very loosely fit with the profiles of the hundreds of companies partly financed by these investment trusts.
          Furthermore aren’t we simply seeing the evolution from the time when Britain was ‘supporting’ the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company?
          For further information: Lords of the Desert, Britain’s struggle with America to dominate the Middle East, by James Barr., Simon & Schuster UK Ltd, 2018, 2019.

  5. Mick
    January 23, 2020

    Off topic
    The Withdrawal Agreement Bill will become law when it receives royal assent today or tomorrow, confirming Britain’s exit from the EU on Jan 31, but yesterday in all the main news channels it was hardly mentioned even your good self haven’t mentioned it in your blog, had it gone the other way with total defeat of the bill you can bet your bottom dollar it would have even been more important than Megan & Harry!!!!

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      The is certainly the BBC position still nothing has changed for them – they are still the beating heart of remain. The dire David Gauke seems to be on BBC political programmes almost every day.

      1. Lifelogic
        January 23, 2020

        Also the BBC is the beating heart of climate alarmism, ever bigger government, high taxes, every more political correctness, virtue signalling, identity politics, the absurd TV poll tax, every more regulation, the anti-car and anti-plane agenda and many other lefty lunacies (the dire socialist monopoly NHS for example).

    2. Mark B
      January 23, 2020

      It’s called, hiding one’s shame.

    3. Martin in Cardiff
      January 23, 2020

      With a majority of eighty, the passage of government bills is hardly going to be news.

      It’s up to you to inform yourself as to the content of them.

      The MSM often won’t tell you, notably the BBC.

    4. Everhopeful
      January 23, 2020

      They don’t want to upset the Remainers. In fact I believe we are now not supposed to use those nasty divisive words..B and R!
      Or maybe the deafening silence is because it just won’t happen….again?
      Silent like Big Ben..

    5. Andy
      January 23, 2020

      I notice on Twitter that many Brexit backers are cheering the passing of Johnson’s capitulation deal.

      The people cheering are the same ones who have spent months moaning about it. Farage called it the second worst deal in history. And yet he’s planning a party. Weird. I celebrate success not failure.

      No doubt the small crowd of elderly right wingers gathered in Parliament Square will enjoy Big Ben not bonging at 11pm (midnight Brussels time) as they celebrate the biggest assault on our rights in history and the most complete British surrender since Chamberlain returned home with a note. I hope it rains just to complete the pathetic picture.

      Still, the good news is that 11pm next Friday is as good as Brexit gets. This has been the easy bit. You now all have to deliver your unicorns. The coming months and years will be very very funny.

      1. Edward2
        January 23, 2020

        You do make me laugh
        Thanks andy.

    6. turboterrier
      January 23, 2020



    7. Fran
      January 23, 2020

      In the meantime Boris said again today the UK would take back control of UK fishing waters after brexit – now if only we knew what constituted Uk fishing waters?

  6. Stred
    January 23, 2020

    These suggestions do not comply with the traffic engineer’s EU directive, which is to delay journey times by road. This is why traffic lights are set to speed traffic in the US but in Europe we have long queues. The civil service will make sure that the UK continues to follow EU directives when we have left under Brino/Kitkat.

    1. Alan Jutson
      January 23, 2020


      I see the so called Smart Motorways are now called death traps (Latest Government report), what a surprise.

      Yet the M4 Smart modifications are still ongoing.

      At the very least remove the barriers on the inside lane, Grade the Ground, and allow vehicles to pull off the live lane in an emergency.

      A small refuge every 1-2 miles is simply not enough.

      Anyone who has suffered a blow out, or a loss of power knows that you need to get off the live lanes IMMEDIATELY !

    January 23, 2020

    An expanding global population coupled with an expanding global economy equals more emissions, equals more exploitation of the earth’s natural resources, equals the destruction of habitat. The reconfiguration of traffic light settings or re-working of junctions is an almost pointless exercise in a global sense. The UK is not hermetically sealed from the rest of the planet.

    How is Asia responding to the global (note, western commentators and western politicians) clamor for action on this thing some call ‘Climate change’? Erm, nothing.

    Maybe western politicians should start dishing out their tedious advice to China, Russia and other non-democratic states. I doubt they will. It takes courage to do that. Far easier to incite their own people and play them for fools

    Now, western politicians may want to fawn over a 16 year child puppet of the climate change lobby but these idiots mustn’t think they can weaponise this issue to massage our perceptions and emotions.

    If it isn’t climate it’s race. If it isn’t race, it’s gender. Those leftist leeches are politicising humanity to assert control over it. And your party’s been assisting them. Hate Crime laws being one of the more visible and insidious manifestations of this war against our the freedoms of the 92%

    Yes, to hell with our freedoms but let’s reconfigure the traffic light settings. I give up

  8. David_Kent
    January 23, 2020

    I agree that much fuel and time are wasted by badly designed intersections.
    A Canadian rule which might be implemented here is ‘right turn on red’ or in England ‘left turn on red’, whereby a red light is treated as a ‘stop and yield’ sign if you wish to turn left.

    1. Iago
      January 23, 2020

      No! No!!! This Canadian rule means the attention of the driver is focussed on the oncoming crossing traffic, not on the road he is about to turn into. As a result, pedestrians crossing that road are often accelerated into by drivers, looking in the opposite direction, when they see a gap in the oncoming traffic.

  9. Lifelogic
    January 23, 2020

    One of the best cheapest and most efficient green/energy saving policies is to wear warmer clothing in winter and turn the heating down a bit in homes, shops and offices but so few seem to do this. Shop even have hot air blowers pumping hot air out of the doors!

    Should we perhaps also ban or discourage with high taxes bottled water? What is wrong with a bottle, a tap and a few public fountains in parks and buildings? We should have fountains with sparking water too in restaurants and the likes (this as I prefer it). Often the water is shipped/trucked huge distances too.

  10. Dave Andrews
    January 23, 2020

    My journey to work today will involve very little emissions, except the CO2 on my breath as I cycle. I’m sure many of the predominantly vehicular traffic passing our house could also be exchanged for cycling, to the benefit of waistlines and wallets as well as the planet.
    This should be the target for environmentalists, not cluelessly raging against government.
    Best way to reduce congestion is to make the driving test much more difficult, and re-test every decade.
    Oh, and like most cyclists, I also have a car for longer journeys.

  11. Mike Stallard
    January 23, 2020

    Out here in the Far North (of Watford) there is no problem at all. The lights work well. The pot holes grow deeper and the side roads narrower and narrower as people move in desperately seeking the peace of life outside London.
    Cambridgeshire is filling up fast now and new cities are coming into play – cities without proper roads, primary schools, railways, hospitals, high streets… Cities where people do not know each other, where there are a lot of white faces and a lot of older faces too. Cities where Eastern Europeans have taken over the centre of a once majestic town and where people don’t go after dark…
    We are the people who put the current government in place.

  12. jerry
    January 23, 2020

    You mention road safety along with pollution, the latter being the main thrust of your argument, roundabouts can be as dangerous as an unmarked and uncontrolled crossroad is, especially were roundabouts have been installed unwisely or cheaply, without the necessary thought being given to adequate visibility. Perhaps DfT needs to redefine what is mean by the term “Give Way,” and to whom!… 🙁

    As for traffic lights, yes phasing is all important (perhaps changing to reflect time of day [1]), as are embedded vehicle sensors, there really isn’t any excuse for the scenario in your last paragraph – but the more complex the phasing arrangement the more it costs, first in its planning, then installation and on-going maintenance.

    [1] for example an other wise minor road might become the major road at certain times of day, perhaps being the access road for a school or large factory

  13. Lifelogic
    January 23, 2020

    Allister Heath is spot on as usual today:-

    It’s now or never – Boris must take on the Blob or be suffocated by it
    If the PM is serious about tackling bureaucratic groupthink, he needs to start with HS2 and the BBC.

    Is Boris just other big government tax to death lefty or not? So far the signs are he and Javid both are.

  14. Roy Grainger
    January 23, 2020

    In USA (I have lived there) it is allowed to turn right on a red light if the road you are joining is clear and this works perfectly well (it would assist in your case of a minor road with lights joining a major road where a driver on the minor road could turn onto the major road any time it was clear rather than waiting for their limited greed-light time). So why not allow a left turn on a red light here ? No change needed to light sequencing for it. Well, you’d need to be prepared to take on the cycling lobby I suppose.

  15. APL
    January 23, 2020

    JR: “One of my favourite green policies is to ease congestion and get traffic moving smoothly without so much stop start interruption. ”

    Then another of your ‘green policies’ would be halt illegal immigration, and identify those here illegally, and send them back to their home countries.

    Here is a radical suggestion. Divert the foreign aid budget, all of it for a period of ten years, from benefiting the sons and daughters of Politicians, close down all the NGOs and give every illegal immigrant who volunteers to return home to his or her country of origin with any and all family members a £1,000,000 bounty.

    That would probably help establish thousands of new businesses in foreign countries, which might be reasonably well disposed to British trade.

    It would be the best sort of grass roots incentives and the money would flow to the local community in the destination countries. Far better than paying Tarquin or Sebastian to swan around some deprived locality in the third world pretending to do good.

    It might help reduce our population density, and reduce the strain on our education public and welfare services.

  16. Caterpillar
    January 23, 2020

    I agree with the first paragraph that keeping traffic flowing is important, one major aid to this in cities is parking capacity, access and ease. Another aspect is redundancy/degeneracy of routes so that vehicles can find their way through, particularly when there are problems unfortunately many cities limit routes and insanely plan to limit them further (e.g. Birmingham). As an alternative local and intercity public transport also needs redundancy of route, this is not wide spread (although London is ‘infinitely’ better than other cities, and HS2 will help enormously between London and Manchester).

    Shifting population to cities will not only help the economy but also transport, however the UK needs to stabilise its population to benefit from this. In the 70s and 80s the population was a stable (56m) it accelerated (twice) thereafter giving a misleading economic appearance and many social infrastructural problems. Politicians need to debate a UK sustainable level and how to reach it (this should be a matter of urgency). Within cities trams & buses do offer a density of passengers significantly higher than one person per large car, nonetheless they are often inconvenient, unsafe, dirty, smelling of fried food and have limited room to carry luggage/purchases/pushchairs etc. Whilst the quality of public transport is so low it remains understandable that people wish to drive in cities. Local govt acts to make this available to only the privileged through so called charging schemes. Such policies will lead to future cities made of Cayenne drivers and rough sleepers, with little inbetween. I would suggest councils switch policies to size of vehicle (e.g. keijidōsha cars and vans only) – there are many advantages that follow.

    And (1) get rid of speed bumps (2) plant the maligned leylandi to absorb particulates rather than canopy forming trees.

  17. Caterpillar
    January 23, 2020


    The govt must ignore the call to reduce meat and dairy intake by 20%. If this happens people will switch to eating more junk (more sugar, more hydrogenated seed oils, less protein) – as I posted recently we know this will happen, it has happened for half a century. A less obese and stronger (i.e. more muscle) population would be a healthier population – there needs to be some systemic thinking here and less knee jerk.

    (I do recognise that small heard US beef on otherwise unfarmable land is very different to clearing rain forests for cows, or for monocultural palm oil).

  18. Sharon Jagger
    January 23, 2020

    With regards to Davos. I’m concerned that Prince Charles chose to speak out politically – he should be apolitical! More troubling is that the views are left wing leaning! Not a good look for the future monarch!

    I believe like a number of your commenters that the global warming agenda is a scam too. When top scientists in their field are being sacked for presenting opposing views and/or opposing evidence for global warming – this rings alarm bells!

    There’s nothing wrong with taking care of our planet – good idea- but not as a money making, power grabbing, virtue signalling con designed to make some people very rich and others (most others) poor.

    Some scientists believe we are approaching a period of global cooling likely to start mid this century. If that were to be the case, we could find that being ill prepared, growing food and keeping warm could be an issue…with insufficient power. Not an ideal scenario – though the world’s rich elite will undoubtedly be fine!

  19. Nig l
    January 23, 2020

    In the Channel Islands on busy right turns they have the ‘filter in turn’ system. Works a treat. No need for lights, delays and the car allowing the filter ‘loses’ no more than a car length that can be quickly recovered.

    On the Continent they have the flashing right filter sign meaning traffic can go round corner if no pedestrians on crossing. Again works well and means traffic looking to turn with the flow is not held up unnecessarily.

  20. Wil Pretty
    January 23, 2020

    You would have thought that nowadays with the masive advances in computing power that there would be smarter traffic lights. The technology does not appear to have changed for decades.
    Somewhere on this planet someone must have developed something better that we can either purchase or copy.

  21. Wil Pretty
    January 23, 2020

    I live in Kent. Traffic congestion has increased considerably. This is no doubt due to the large level of house building.
    I have noticed that there appears to be in influx of older people from northern counties whose properties have increased in value and are now retiring here as a result of the lower house prices created by the increased supply of houses.
    This is understandable, as you get older you appreciate warmth more and Global Warming is too slow to make a noticable difference.

  22. Kevin
    January 23, 2020

    “Allied to it is greater safety”

    This should be the paramount consideration in junction design. Road safety concerns, furthermore, should be focused on the proximate causes of accidents, and not on a possible “butterfly effect” approach to risk analysis. In other words, junction design should be built around avoiding car crashes rather than carbon emissions.

    Speaking, indeed, of the latter, the “level playing field” clause (Clause 77) of the Political Declaration provides that the future relationship “should also promote adherence to and effective implementation of…the Paris Agreement”. Does this clause affect our freedom to unilaterally withdraw from the latter agreement, as the US has chosen to do? If so, how is this compatible with the People’s Vote to take back democratic control of our government?

    1. Iago
      January 23, 2020

      How on earth could our rulers have agreed to such a clause?

  23. glen cullen
    January 23, 2020

    Provide school pupils with free travel and encourage the end of the ‘school run’

    The change in traffic congestion between term times is dramatic

    1. Fred H
      January 23, 2020

      glen – -do you really expect secondary kids to walk, cycle, get a bus etc…..whatever next!

  24. jerry
    January 23, 2020

    OT; What chance of any sensible policies coming out of this govt when they are so welded to the Climate Change agenda. I’ve just heard a leading member of the Cabinet compare the feels she had about the threat from nuclear war as a young person to how the youth of today must have regarding climate change – I kid you not – this was on BBC Radio 5Live, unless it was a skit from Dead Ringers…

  25. Everhopeful
    January 23, 2020

    There are too many cars on the roads!

    1. Dave Andrews
      January 23, 2020

      Yes, and they are all being mugged with driving taxes – vehicle excise duty, fuel duty, VAT on fuel AND duty, IPT, VAT on new vehicles. Don’t expect government to introduce policies to reduce the number.

  26. Fred H
    January 23, 2020

    An interesting view. The pollution caused can be tackled better, persuade drivers to turn off engines when they can see lights change against them. Diesel vehicles must be phased out – accelerate the withdrawal. Public transport ones should be switched to electric or hybrid. The turning logic to work well requires all approaches to be 3 lanes – east, west and straight ahead. This can be provided at large intersections, but many exist with too little space. Light systems rarely take account of the size of queue, often creating logjams further back up the road.
    And lastly the time allowed contractually to dig up and fix at roadworks has to be managed better – cones and narrowing arrive days and even weeks prior to any other activity.

  27. bigneil(newercomp)
    January 23, 2020

    The A-road that goes through our small ( but increasing rapidly with massive housing builds) town, the congestion at teatime is horrendous. What have the authorities done about it? Allowed yet more mass housing builds a couple of miles away, to commence. The only road these are going to turn out onto is the road that is already chaos at the worst times. And someone gets paid a lot for this stupidity.

  28. Northern Monkey
    January 23, 2020

    As a mathematical exercise your post works perfectly.

    As a real world exercise, however, when north, south, east and west represent real destinations which do not each share a perfect 25% of traffic it sadly fails miserably – if 80% of the traffic is travelling northwards and wishes to turn east at this junction, then 7.5% of time devoted to this option will lead to long tailbacks and lots of wasted time on phases which do not help anyone reach their destination.

    Your suggestion that we should favour roundabouts over traffic lights on the other hand I fully endorse. Roundabouts are by far the most efficient means for traffic to regulate its own flow through complex time-dependent flows without external influence.

    1. Mockbeggar
      January 23, 2020

      Traffic wishing to turn right at a junction with lights should be allowed to provided there is nothing coming the other way. They should then have a short ‘turn right’ signal as JR suggests when oncoming traffic has a red light. This happens at some, but not all traffic lights.

      I also agree that wherever possible there should be roundabouts rather than lights.

    2. acorn
      January 23, 2020

      Many years ago as a naive Local Councillor, I asked why couldn’t we have a roundabout instead of a basic timed traffic lights at a five way junction (that is lights that don’t have any traffic sensing capability).

      The Highways Officers proceeded to tell me how much additional land would need to be purchased to construct a roundabout and how much they guessed, off the record, it would cost.

      OK forget the roundabout, how about some intelligent traffic lights with five sets of sensors in the tarmac to control the lights I say! … OK forget the intelligent traffic lights.

      The bottom line is your pet junction will never get upgraded until it manages to kill enough people in a year.

      1. acorn
        January 23, 2020

        BTW. If you are driving in France and you come up to a traffic light that has a low level set of sensor lights, make sure you are close enough to them, so the light system knows you are there. Otherwise, the system will ignore you and you could be stuck at a red light until some nice French person in the car behind you, tells you how things work in 21st Century Continental Europe compared to 19th Century UK.

  29. L Jones
    January 23, 2020

    Traffic lights.
    The system in Canada (perhaps elsewhere) is that, at a two lane approach to traffic lights at a main road – and speaking now as if driving on the left – the traffic in the left lane can turn left if the road is clear, even when the lights show ‘stop’ (unless directed otherwise). Also, at less busy crossroads, a ‘4-way stop’ (sometimes a 3-way at junctions) system is used – first come, first go, in any direction, with penalties for not actually stopping completely (at any ‘stop’ sign).

    If only our own drivers were courteous and disciplined enough to be trusted to do it properly. They used to be. Perhaps it’s because now there are too many cars – ie too many people. Or is that the elephant in the room?

    1. turboterrier
      January 23, 2020

      L Jones

      ie too many people. Or is that the elephant in the room?

      It is not just one elephant its a herd of them, still they cannot see or choose to ignore the bleeding obvious. You are totally correct, too many cars relates to too many people.

  30. Steve Reay
    January 23, 2020

    Just getting people to use indicators would be a good start.

    1. jerry
      January 23, 2020

      @Steve Reay; [teaching drivers to use indicators]

      Indeed, preferably BEFORE they start turning, not as they turn, even worse after they have done so, and then leave it flashing so everyone thinks they are turning at the NEXT junction, perhaps causing someone else to pull or walk out into their path…

      1. agricola
        January 23, 2020

        What you describe is standard practice inSpain. Bare in mind that they mostly drive on the right they have an unbelievable habit at roundabouts with two lane entries and exits. When turning left or reversing direction they maintain position in the outside lane and overtake at the same time. Anyone driving to the UK system on roundabouts must look out for the Spanish crossing in front of them as they exit straight ahead. A warning to anyone new to Spanish driving practice. I have even seen Guardi Civil traficos doing it.

        1. jerry
          January 24, 2020

          @agricola; Indeed, and have seen that for myself. out there, but the same sort of nonsense happens here in the UK too, also some drivers delight in cutting the lanes, entering the roundabout in the outside lane, cutting into the inside lane halfway around and then leave via the outside lane – as if the roundabout is a chicane on a race track that needs to be straightened, and often at ‘race track’ speeds too, forcing other road users to take to the centre island…

  31. formula57
    January 23, 2020

    Does not the Department of Transport have experts replicating the “some work I have been doing on light phases” or does it have no interest in improving traffic flow?

  32. RichardP
    January 23, 2020

    Good morning,

    Another cause of traffic delays are the roadworks every couple of miles installing utility connections for unsustainable housing developments.
    Sort out the over population problem and the traffic will probably take care of itself.

  33. Know-Dice
    January 23, 2020

    Some good local Wokingham/Reading examples of traffic lights that are deliberately designed to slow the passage of traffic.

    Replacing the roundabout at Winnersh crossroad with multi-phased traffic lights. – was Hewlett Packard now Sainsbury – now there are always queues.

    Replacing roundabouts through Shinfield with traffic lights – now there are always queues.

    Heading into Reading on the B3031 (Basingstoke Road) at Rose Kiln Lane, buses and taxis can go straight on all other traffic has to turn left – and then they promptly do a dangerous “U-turn” to get back on the B3031.

    Certainly for Reading it’s a deliberate policy to slow down and disrupt traffic flow.

    1. Fred H
      January 23, 2020

      We are local…..the planners allowed an Estate agent/flats building on one corner, and a small tech business on the next, worse still the garage on another allowed to be a car valet business. All could have been used to make a functioning roundabout….duh!

      Most traffic from the Hurst side could have joined the Reading road A329 years ago where the M4 crosses if the Watmore Lane rail bridge had been strengthened, but then what do residents know?

  34. agricola
    January 23, 2020

    Yes to para 1, but where possible keep cyclists out of the mix. They are uninsured, unidentifiable, and anarchic.

    Roundabouts are a stage in the process of ensuring traffic flow. As a final step they need to be combined with flyovers and underpasses to ensure that all the othe exits do not get blocked by traffic on the island. There is a classic example in my home town of a new island, concieved at least ten years ago, that is totally inadequate at peak flow times. An inadequacy that will only get worse when the thousands of new houses scheduled are built. The whole area has become one big rat run.

    Traffic lights control more than simple crossovers so yes let them be controlled by sensors geared to demand. In the UK filter out left on red is a helpful benefit mimmicking the USAs filter out right on red.

    To put an end to commuting, which is the prime cause of peak time congestion on road and rail make an active effort to encourage in every way working at home. As I once pointed out to my CEO, it did not matter if I spent the day abed with a nubile blond providing the business came in. That sort of thinking led me to very successful self employment minus the blonde. The other significant key is population size, so take sensible steps to reduce our import and procreation tendencies.

  35. MBJ
    January 23, 2020

    You shouldn’t be able to work these sorts of things out ; you have an arts degree!

  36. MarkLeigh
    January 23, 2020

    One assumes traffic planners use computer models to optimise traffic lights – both timing and locations. ( might be the same as the climate modellers use though ! )

    When drivers are left to get on with managing a junction, things often go well. Research in the USA confirmed the roundabout much more efficient than the Common 4-way stop.

    On the other hand, the US option to filter on red works very well. We should introduce that.

    In Spain, many cities and times have limited places where you can cross oncoming traffic – this helps too.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      I assume it is driven by green crap religion believers who (wrongly) think bikes, buses, trams, trains, walkers are good but cars and trucks need to be deterred by blocking the roads, endless delays, speed hump, environmental areas, no left or right turns and by endlessly mugging the drivers.

  37. Ian@Barkham
    January 23, 2020

    Good morning Sir John

    While your observations are pretty obvious to you and the rest of us, it does make you wonder how local/national planners get it so wrong. As an outsider the perception is one of Councils and Governments being inept, as in going for ‘cheap’ instead of value for money. The reasoning appears to be lets get away with what ever is cheap so as to kick the problem into the long grass and let others cope with it when it is even more expensive.

    As others here have already mentioned when so-called systems fail everything flows smoothly – common sense in action prevails.

    In the first instance roundabouts appear to be better for flow when the traffic density is low. Traffic lights as you say add to CO2 but just as importantly they waste precious energy. The again as we have in Wokingham traffic lights on roundabouts? Cheap skate Council bosses in action. For the most part both incidences could have be avoided in the first place.

    Now Wokingham Council is on the rampage further with pseudo style black spot bypasses that from the get go are stop start hindrances from the get go absolutely littered with 4 way traffic lights from the get go. These are not Highway improvements, they are just a method of sharing the pollution out while ensuring the community is even further hindered to the maximum.

    I could get detailed on all individual incidences were the Wokingham Council have set out to deliberately damage the quality of life for its residence, but it would me very little to your broader readership. It is clear though that however plans Wokingham transport links does not drive the area and does not want to see the business side of the community thrive.

    1. Fred H
      January 23, 2020

      we share your pain daily…..

  38. Fishknife
    January 23, 2020

    Traffic flows vary in density and direction over a 24 hour period. AI flow sensors coupled with “flashing yellow” to permit ‘proceed with caution’ at times of low useage.

  39. DPD Leighton
    January 23, 2020

    In the South Coast where I live, roundabouts are a major bottleneck as traffic has reached saturation. Positioning large retail outlets along dual carriageways has meant a large volume of traffic having to turn left onto the carriageway and doing a Uturn at the next roundabout, adding to the queues trying to join the roundabout.
    This is one of the very few things I disagree with you on Mr. Redwood. Please proceed carefully.

    1. DPD Leighton
      January 29, 2020

      Apologies, Sir John.

  40. Colin
    January 23, 2020

    I have recently returned from Peru where all major traffic lights have count-down indicators to show when the phases will change. This allows approaching traffic to cross without slowing down and also indicates when to slow down. The phases are generally about 100 seconds which reduces the stop/start delays of short phases and increases the efficiency of the junction. Phase times can be adjusted to suit traffic flows at different times of the day. Traffic volumes in Lima are as congested as London.

  41. Steve
    January 23, 2020

    Whatever about traffic congestion it’s hard to fathom Sajid Javid who yesterday seemingly set out to rile the Americans by announcing digital services tax on mostly American produced goods and at this critical time- and so I ask just where is this crazy stuff coming from? anyone would think that UK government is delibrately throwing caution to the wind and at this particular juncture and also while giving priority to EU discussions over US? Strange sort of goings-on indeed

    1. Mitchel
      January 23, 2020

      It might be down to geopolitics,as most things are;the further the UK draws away from Europe,the more likely Europe will be drawn towards,if not into,Russia and China’s powerful Eurasian integration scheme.

      The UK Establishment has never gotten over losing the Great Game-and is always looking for ways to re-ignite it!

  42. hefner
    January 23, 2020

    Good luck to your ideas dealing smoothly with the traffic within Lower Earley’s Showcase roundabout.

    1. Know-Dice
      January 23, 2020

      Hefner – Might be worth blocking off the dual carriageway through the middle and have part-time traffic lights at peak times and treat it as a big roundabout at all other times.

  43. kzb
    January 23, 2020

    It’s good to see a senior person finally taking an interest in road traffic management. I think, Sir John, you need to recognise that the people running the show are not, in fact trying to reduce congestion.
    On the contrary, their objective is to make car transport as slow and expensive as possible. The only way forward is to replace them with persons whose primary objective is to get Britain moving again.
    You are not going to get growth in productivity, or get the feel-good factor back, without doing this.
    As for traffic lights, yes I agree with your proposals but additionally somewhere between 50 and 75% of them could be made peak time only. Think of the CO2 savings from that.

  44. Atlas
    January 23, 2020

    Interesting analysis John,

    Where I’ve seen the introduction of Traffic lights, indeed things work out as you describe. I think that roundabouts can handle the time-varying dynamics of most traffic flows better than traffic lights, except for the situation where the main road flow is such that people cannot join from a side road and so get blocked.

    Also, traffic lights use implies capital costs and non-trivial running/maintenance costs. Such monies could be better spent on road-surfacing etc.

  45. a-tracy
    January 23, 2020

    You can point the finger at town planners and Councils for a lot of unnecessary congestion and the long-time permissions given for road closures when if they could only give two weeks to complete a job instead of 3 or 4 it would get done faster using all hours possible.

    This morning we had a 15-minute delay because gas workers (not arrived at 8am) decided to leave cones out in the narrow short section of road with temporary traffic lights when they are actually working digging up the pavement and large grass verge, the van (they want to close the road off to park) could come along with the workers in it and put the traffic lights out at 9 am and take them off again at 4 pm when they finish, but no it’s easier just to leave it up for an unknown number of weeks on end if it’s there all weekend with no work taking place it is VERY annoying.

    If you want to experience serious congestion try living in Birmingham in the rush hours, especially Wolverhampton, Dudley. Its a shame the M53 didn’t join up with the M54 at Shrewsbury and continue south to join up with the M42 to take Welsh and Irish Ferry traffic off the M6. South Manchester to Sheffield is also horrendous, I heard there were several unused railways and tunnels could these not be converted for cars?

  46. David Cooper
    January 23, 2020

    It is said that Ken Livingstone deliberately had London traffic lights set on very short phasing intervals so as to create congestion and, as he would have it, justify his driving tax. That may equally deliberately have been in the minds of local councils when setting traffic lights at conventional crossroads as JR has described – the inner ring road in Birmingham , which will take a much higher flow of traffic if the Labour council’s lunatic road charging scheme takes effect later this year as planned, is one example.

  47. Rhoddas
    January 23, 2020

    Taking some of the best traffic practices from our European friends and neighbours:

    On Dutch dual and 3 lane motorways, they have rush hour limits for lorries which are only allowed to use the inside lane, with minimum speed limits also.

    On French roads A roads, rather than overtaking slow traffic using the opposite lane, they’ve added regular and well signposted slow lanes (several hundred metres) which means cars know how far/long they have to wait to safely overtake. These are cost effective to building a dual carriageway and reduce accidents.

    And our US friends who drive on the right – have on many traffic lit junctions – turn right when clear (irrespective of whether the traffic lights are on red).

    Please would you kindly consider a future article on council taxes and getting competition and efficiencies into their services.

  48. Yossarion
    January 23, 2020

    Roundabouts worked when Drivers took them at a steady speed and did not treat them as a challenge to see how fast you can get around causing accidents and flow. We need a way of slowing up the approaches if you are going to do away with lights as that’s why they put there.

  49. The Prangwizard
    January 23, 2020

    It does indeed make sense to keep traffic moving smoothly. Our roads just about everywhere need major rebuilding and widenening; we are forced to drive on many roads not much improved for 60 or 70 years.

    They are being now being destroyed by the much heavier vehicles these days and more of them and on narrow country roads by the massive farm vehicles in use these days. There are very dangerous stretches in some areas where the soft verge has been squashed leaving deep trenches at the edge of the metalled surface.

    To return to the question of roundabouts, a new view should be adopted. Where minor roads cross major ones the major route should be given priority by adopting the M Way principle, in the main it should go beneath the roundabout unimpeded. There are a number of roundabouts on the A43 between the M1 and M40 (Northampton – Cherwell) where through traffic has to slow frequently for roundabouts as an example.

  50. Johnny Dubb
    January 23, 2020

    Nothing but agreement there, Sir John. Again, how nice to find a politician considering matters affecting people out here, on planet Earth. Filter lanes for all left turns (we must give way to the right in any case). Instead of road fund licence, how about a motorway permit, annually, monthly or when planning a long trip? Motorways, built to “reduce” long journeys, are clogged with drivers using them for one junction, on the shopping or school run. Some great examples here on the A69 & A1 ring road around Newcastle.
    Anyway, abolish the (annoying and easy to forget now with no disc) road fund licence and add a few pence to fuel instead. Bonus…foreign drivers then contribute, outsize fuel tanks notwithstanding.

    1. Fred H
      January 23, 2020

      commercial drivers fill in in France prior to coming here.

  51. Dave Clemo
    January 23, 2020

    Nothing grinds my gears quite like driving up to the roundabout on our bypass late at night to find that mine is the only vehicle on the road and yet the traffic lights are stuck on red. Why can’t we have flashing amber lights on every entry/exit meaning proceed with caution?

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      Indeed but the reason is the government do not give a damn about inconveniencing you. Many green loons actually want to constrict and block the roads.

      Other examples are where they close a lane or a road and all the diverted traffic is then sent on to some light that are programmed to pass only a handful of traffic per hour. Rather than the 50 times this level now needed due to the diversion. But no one switches them off or resets them.

      I always assume a nice cosy relationship between the traffic light companies and some people in government. The companies must make a fortune fitting them and fixing them every time they get damaged. More and more every time you look and always being “improved” or remodelled. Usually making it worse.

  52. ukretired123
    January 23, 2020

    Queuing is a classic Operational Research problem that combined with smart computing should be a key resource at national level not as it seems local authorities have varying priorities.
    In Bristol for example they seem to be competing to declare themselves a diesel free zone next year but creating even more carbon footprint as vehicles will have to go for miles around instead. This lunacy knows no bounds and needs a national view.

    1. Lifelogic
      January 23, 2020

      Indeed as you say “This lunacy knows no bounds and needs a national view”. But the people at national level will be just as idiotic. Decisions are made for political reasons and almost never on a rational, logical or efficient basis. Look at the absurd structure of the NHS.

  53. Graham Wheatley
    January 23, 2020


    Two suggestions :-

    1) That we adopt – nationwide – the equivalent of the U.S. transportation initiative whereby vehicles are able to turn (in their case, right and in our case left) on red, when there are no vehicles to impede from the other direction.

    2) Many local authorities (I have first-hand experience of this with the Liberal-Democrat controlled council in Portsmouth) seem to allow vegetated roundabouts to become overgrown. In many instances this is to such an extent that it forms a sight obstruction and prevents vehicles wishing to join the gyratory from doing so safely. Drivers do not have sufficient time to evaluate whether to join or not, because they are unable to see an oncoming vehicle until its front bumper emerges from behind the bushes. Two measures that would both enhance safety and lead to improved flow would be :-
    i) To ensure that vegetation in REGULARLY cut-back, and not permitted to exceed a certain height (say, 1 metre?). This would improve visibility such that joining drivers would be able to see that another vehicle is NOT IMMINENTLY about to come into view.
    ii) to have a nationwide speedlimit of (say) 20mph ON the gyratory itself. This would give drivers more time to join the system without unduly delaying drivers already on the roundabout.

    I concur wholeheartedly with your contention that roundabouts generally operate more efficiently than do poorly-phased light systems. You may be familiar with, (and if not, you may have heard about..) the old Johnson&Johnson / Marriott Hotel roundabout near Portchester in the north of Portsmouth. That roundabout was removed, and replaced with SEVENTY ONE sets of traffic lights ! It was a large diameter roundabout and vehicles were able to build a high speed whilst on it. All that was required at that location was to implement a speedlimit thereon (my previous suggestion of 20mph would have given ample time for joining-drivers without unnecessarily impeding other vehicles).


  54. steve
    January 23, 2020


    Agree with all you say on this subject.

    Up here in the Hull area we have possibly some of the most looney traffic light phasing you could find. There are a few examples where it is positively dangerous considering the specific road layout.

    Some of it is widely believed to be the way it is just to serve certain groups of road users who think they have rights to get home before anyone else.

    Of course much of it is remote phasing, where someone hidden away somewhere secret gets to play God.

    I think the problem is ultimately down to the fact that people these days don’t want to live where they work.

    I suppose you could say we’re victims of our own progress.

  55. kzb
    January 23, 2020

    The more money given to councils the more they ruin their roads.

    On the roundabout/traffic light choice, Lancashire has been very busy the last few years installing huge numbers of lights on roundabouts.

    Each scheme costs about £1 million and takes a year to accomplish. For gods sake cut their budget.

    January 23, 2020

    C-V2X (cellular) inter-vehicle communication technology will allow cars to communicate with each other and with traffic lights and other road infrastructure.

    Vehicles fitted with C-V2X will coordinate with traffic lights as they arrive at them with each and every other vehicle also being herded to maximise flow

    Audi and Qualcomm will start trials in Q3 in the US

    an an aside. Decriminalise non-payment of the BBC licence fee and please smash it into reform. Take no prisoners

    1. steve
      January 23, 2020


      ” Decriminalise non-payment of the BBC licence fee and please smash it into reform. Take no prisoners”

      Agreed. It’s about time that shower got their comeuppance.

  57. matthu
    January 23, 2020

    At the M4 Junction 11 roundabout with the A33, the lights in the morning rush hour (?) are set just long enough to completely block the traffic for the duration of the next change. The authorities ought to be well aware of this, as I witnessed two police cars being caught up in the congestion when they clearly had somewhere more important to be. But if anybody has thought to alter the timing of the lights, they haven’t had much success.

    The whole design of the roundabout is such a disaster that nobody uses the inside lane coming from Reading and heading towards the M4 West for the simple reason that traffic on that lane never gets a decent opportunity to circulate.

    I guess getting rid of the hard shoulder has been taking precedence.

  58. mancunius
    January 23, 2020

    I agree that roundabouts are far superior to light-systems in cross-country traffic situations, but they do not work where pedestrians have to cross the road – so some of the worst traffic bottlenecks are in cities, and so extremely costly to business and to private traffic.
    We can’t carry on like this. Some improved interchange system needs to be invented, as lights are frustratingly time-wasting for motorists (who then routinely jump them out of impatience, endangering others, and blocking the pedestrian crossings), while pedestrian underpasses are an unpopular personal security risk except in city centres, and bridges are expensive and impractical.

  59. steve
    January 23, 2020

    Slightly off topic;

    Sir JR, have you considered investigating why it is that cyclists insist on using the highway despite the presence a perfectly good and safe cycle path ?

    It seems to me a lot of these people wish to make a point rather than put their own safety first.

  60. Delicate Bloom
    January 23, 2020

    I’ve just read what I’ve just written and we’ve decided (not me and her long ago…oh) it’s me here now as I write in plural(Surprise!) I’m the best writer since Shakespeare. Until I write my next book and outdo myself but still dammit not up to the Bard’s canons. No match! B. perfect our Bard is!

  61. Robert Evans
    January 24, 2020

    All traffic lights should also have a digital countdown as they do in some other countries and, indeed, in some of our cities.
    The Highway Code states that as soon as a single orange light comes on (following a period of green) , then if your front wheels have not yet passed over the white line, then you must stop. To proceed is a traffic offence with many speed cameras carefully positioned at junctions to catch drivers out.
    Stamping on the foot brakes, however, as soon as the orange traffic light comes on (with no notice, no digital countdown) is likely to result in a rear end shunt.

    1. Mark the Engineer
      January 27, 2020

      Single Amber does allow the caveat of only stopping if it is safe to do so. Only when the lights go red are the red light cameras activated. At lower speeds in towns the 3 seconds on Amber is sufficient for slowing down safely: only high-speed roads cause a potentially dangerous ‘dilemma zone’.

  62. Chris S
    January 24, 2020

    The simplest improvement to traffic flow at traffic light controlled junctions would be to allow left turns on red at almost all junctions when the main road is clear. This is the case in many countries including much of the USA.

    It would require no expenditure or alterations to the lights so could be introduced immediately.

    Blanket 20mph speed limits slow traffic too much and are largely ineffective. Another lesson from the USA would be to arrange for 20mph speed limits around schools to be controlled by lights that operate only at the start and end of the school day. That would allow the limit to be 30mph for 22 out of 24 hours.

  63. Robert Smith
    January 27, 2020

    Great to hear someone wants to help the plight of the road user.

    Have you considered the american system where wheels MUST stop turning at a junction?

    fyi. I have given up with the control systems and law and just make my way politely and safely with due consideration for others…cyclists can do that if they try!

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