Fixed speed cameras could be scrapped
17 November 2008
By Matthew Squires
Lancashire's controversial army of Gatso cameras look set to be a thing of the past after the Government's new transport boss branded them "unfair".
Pressure to ditch fixed cameras is growing after transport secretary Geoff Hoon admitted drivers hate the devices.
Bosses at the Lancashire Partnership for Road Safety told the Evening Post high-tech average devices are a "now a realistic option".
Meanwhile, several senior Labour councillors called for a review.
One cabinet member said they "don't serve their purpose very well".
Another said it was "odd" they were placed at the bottom of hills, adding: "That's not accident reduction, it is income generation."
It comes after figures reveal 502,000 tickets have been dished out since 2001 – just 60,000 fewer than all vehicles registered to the county.
Meanwhile, a 500% increase in mobile and static cameras has led to a drop of 1,300 road injuries compared to the 1994-8 average.
In 2007 there were 139 fewer deaths and serious injuries on the road than 2006.
Mr Hoon, who became Transport Secretary last month, said: "Spot speed cameras are seen by some people as unfair because, when you are driving along, you perhaps don't notice your speed.
"What is interesting about average-speed cameras is that limits are largely observed by motorists."
The cabinet minister, who is a Nottinghamshire MP, added: "There is an area between my home and my constituency where they are widening the M1 and there are average speed cameras.
"It reduces fuel consumption. By encouraging the smoother flow of traffic you are getting greater reliability."
And he said normally conscientious drivers who are caught speeding just over the limit should not be persecuted.
"What we are really after are the people who seriously abuse the rules," he said.
Lancashire's speed cameras last year raised £3.4m in fines, as prosecutions for driving while disqualified, drink-driving, uninsured driving – and the number of traffic police – have dropped to their lowest levels in a decade.
County Coun Tom Burns, cabinet member for organisational development, was the first councillor to call for average speed cameras to be introduced.
He wants to see the devices trialled in rat runs like St Vincent's Road, Fulwood, and St Andrew's Avenue, Powis Road and Egerton Road, Ashton.
He said: "I think fixed cameras are there for a purpose but they don't serve that purpose very well.People slow down and speed up after them."
Coun Tony Martin, the council's resource boss and former highways chief, said he supported fixed speed cameras.
But he added: "I do think it is a bit odd where they put them at the bottom of hills because that's not accident reduction, it is income generation."
Asked if he would welcome a review, he said: "Absolutely."
He added: "We have cases in the village of Goosnargh where they have taken the speed camera off and put a speed indication device in."
Council leader Hazel Harding said: "I would question whether they are always in the right place and whether people are used to them and so just slow down and speed up again."
Steve Whitehouse, project manager for the Lancashire Partnership for Road Safety, said: "Improvements in camera technology now mean that speed over distance cameras are now a realistic option and they will be considered alongside other available camera systems when Lancashire's camera network is updated."
A survey of drivers by Lancashire-based car supermarket giants Motorpoint revealed 76% want speed cameras scrapped.
David Shelton, managing director of Motorpoint said: "Motorists are fed up to the back teeth with the blanket use of speed cameras on our roads."