Cost Of Traffic Lights In UK Not Known – Department of Transport/Highways Agency

I was originally going to write an article questioning the point of traffic lights but when I tried to find out how much a traffic lights cost I was shocked to find out that the Department of Transport does not know and neither do the Highways Agency.

And the average cost of a traffic light installation is apparently such a mystery that it would cost at least

600 GBP to find out.

Assuming the average hourly labour cost of an administrator at the Highways Agency is 100 GBP, 6 hours of constant research would not be sufficient to be able to come up with an “approximate” figure.

I have included at the bottom of this page the actual reply from the Highways Agency to a Freedom of Information request from a citizen wishing to know the following.

a) a standard traffic light, including the traffic light post;
b) the device which pedestrians’ press to indicate they wish to
cross the road at a pedestrian crossing;
c) the cost of the short posts to which the devices in b) are
attached when two such devices are provide at a traffic light (one
attached to the traffic light post and the second to a short post)

I have included the full correspondence at the bottom of this email.

This kind of response immediately made me think that the Highways Agency is a government department and indeed it is.

The Highways Agency is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport (DfT), and is responsible for operating, maintaining and improving the strategic road network in England on behalf of the Secretary of State for Transport.

Only a government agency would find it acceptable to answer a customers request for a quote with a charge.

Going from the Highways Agency official response to this request it is clear that this department is completely out of touch with its purpose which is to maintain roads for its customers ie the taxpayer.

A taxpayer has asked the Highways Agency/the taxpayers service provider how much a taxpayer pays for a traffic light and the HIghways Agency says “we do not know how much the taxpayer pays for a traffic light and it will cost the taxpayer over 600 GBP to find out”.

If the Highways Agency does not know what the going rate is for a simple traffic light you have to wonder what else they do not know the cost of. The construction of a pelican crossing for example, could be something completely unpredictable.

One has to wonder how the Highways Agency can possibly do a cost benefit analysis on a set of traffic lights if they do not know the cost of a set of traffic lights.

Going to back to the original motivation of this article, what exactly is the point of traffic lights supposed to  be?

Traffic lights seem to cause more congestion than they solve.

Over the past few years various traffic lights in my area have been out of action for a day or so at a time and the most obvious thing that happens is that traffic seems to disappear.

Where there is usually congestion when the traffic lights are in operation, when the traffic lights are out of action the volume of traffic seems to drop by 90%.

Which leads me to my question, what exactly is the point of traffic lights?

I have never seen any evidence that they assist in making traffic move more freely, indeed, the evidence I have seen is that traffic lights massively increase road congestion.

I am not talking about 1 or 2 incidents here where traffic congestion has gone down a little.

Over the least 3 years I have used at least 20 junctions where the traffic lights have been out-of-order and on every occasion the amount of traffic waiting to cross the intersection has gone from 5-10 cars to 1 or zero.

This cannot be a coincidence, so I checked out Wikipedia to find out what it says the purpose of traffic lights are

Traffic lights alternate the right of way of road users

So that is the sole purpose of traffic lights. I see no logical reason why the drivers themselves cannot decide the right of way and I have seen no evidence that drivers having to decide right of way has caused any issues at all in my experience, if anything stress levels decrease, boredom and impatience evaporate, drivers pay more attention to their environment, drivers go slower, drivers are more accommodating of other drivers and generally the world is a better place.

From my experience of traffic lights I believe the roads would be a far better place for drivers and the environment if all traffic lights were removed.

There are instances where traffic lights could be beneficial. Pedestrian crossings for example, especially on wide roads.

On small roads ie one way one way, one way the other, pelican crossings are more than enough to make sure pedestrians can cross the road safely.

Unfortunately the spread of traffic lights seems to be increasing if anything, not decreasing, which is especially worrying as the highways agency does not know their cost.

This is the official response from the Highways Agency

 Dear Mr Oates

YOUR INFORMATION REQUEST

I am writing regarding your request for information and further to the email you received from Suku Phull at DfT on 24 July 2009. In your original request on 10 July you asked for the average cost of the production and installation of the following:

     a) a standard traffic light, including the traffic light post; b)

     the device which pedestrians’ press to indicate they wish to cross

     the road at a pedestrian crossing; c) the cost of the short posts

     to which the devices in b) are attached when two such devices are

     provide at a traffic light (one attached to the traffic light post

     and the second to a short post)

We have estimated that the cost of compiling your request will exceed £600. This is because the Highways Agency does not hold the information ourselves.

Traffic signals are invariably installed as a part of a Network maintenance or improvement scheme. As a traffic signal is an integral part of a scheme, cost of its installation is not always separately identified or recorded. Production and Installation costs can vary significantly based on its location such as the road layout, speed of road, traffic volumes and proximity to power supply. The purchase and installation of traffic lights is therefore performed by contractors under a general management contract. To obtain the information you require would involve us contacting each of our 14 managing agent contractors who would then have to search through their own records for details of all installations. We would then to need to collate these responses and calculate the average cost as per your request.

Section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act does not oblige us to comply with requests if they exceed the £600 limit. Therefore, your request will not be processed further. If you think you may be able to reduce the scope of your request please submit your revised request or contact me to see if I can help you form a request that we can process.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. Internal review requests should be submitted within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and should be addressed me.

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be contacted at: Information Commissioner’s Office, Wycliffe House,Water Lane, Wilmslow,Cheshire,SK9 5AF

Please remember to quote the reference number above in any future communications.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Arrowsmith

Group Leader

Network Operations Directorate

Highways Agency

5 Broadway,Broad Street

Birmingham,B15 1BL

Full correspondance of Freedom of Information request

10 July 2009

Dear Sir or Madam,

I would be grateful if you could provide me with the average cost
of the following:

a) a standard traffic light, including the traffic light post;
b) the device which pedestrians’ press to indicate they wish to
cross the road at a pedestrian crossing;
c) the cost of the short posts to which the devices in b) are
attached when two such devices are provide at a traffic light (one
attached to the traffic light post and the second to a short post)

Yours faithfully,

Mr Oates

Link to this | Send follow up

Ivan Pocock
Department for Transport

13 July 2009

Dear Mr Oates,

I am writing to acknowledge receipt of your request for information which has been allocated the above reference number. A response will be issued to you in due course.

Regards,

Ivan Pocock
Department for Transport
Information Rights Unit
D/04, Ashdown House
Sedlescombe Road North
St Leonards on Sea
East Sussex
TN37 7GA

show quoted sections

Link to this | Reply to this message

Suku Phull
Department for Transport

22 July 2009

Dear Mr Oats,

Thank you for your email of 10 July 2009 to the Department for Transport concerning production and installation cost of traffic signals, since I have dealing with such issues, your email has been passed to me for reply.

Please note that the department does not hold such information. Most signal companies in the UK will be able to provide you with this information and I have suggested a few:

Siemens Traffic - www.siemens.co.uk

TSEU Group- http://www.microsense.co.uk

Peek Traffic- www.peek-traffic.co.uk

I hope this information is useful.

Yours sincerely 

S S Phull
Traffic Management Division 
Great Minster House
Zone 2/07
76 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DR
Telephone: 020 7944 2148

show quoted sections

Link to this | Reply to this message

Mr Oates

23 July 2009

Dear Suku Phull,

I am concerned by your response to my FOI request. The Highways
Agency is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport and
unless I am mistaken it has responsibility for procuring traffic
signals on trunk roads. As such it must be possible to provide
information on the average cost of purchase and installation of
traffic signals on these roads over the past 12 months. If the DfT
cannot access such information it cannot possible have proper
oversight of the Agency’s budget.

I would be grateful therefore if you could revisit this matter and
seek to ensure that the Highways Agency provides the information
requested.

With best wishes

Yours sincerely,

Mr Oates

Link to this | Send follow up

Suku Phull
Department for Transport

24 July 2009

Dear Mr Oaks,

Thank you for your email of 23 July 09 to the Department concerning the cost of traffic signal equipment. In your original email, you asked for general information on the average cost of traffic signal equipment, but you did not explicitly state that you wanted information concerning the average cost of purchase and installation of traffic signals for trunk roads and motorways, for which the Highways Agency has responsibility. 

I have forwarded your request to Mr Richard Privett of the Highways Agency, who should be able to provide you with this information ([email address]].

Regards

Suku Phull

show quoted sections

Link to this | Reply to this message

Mr Oates

24 July 2009

Dear Suku Phull,

Thank you for your assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Oates

Link to this | Send follow up

Arrowsmith, Richard

6 August 2009


AttachmentFOI 616691 response.doc 
76K Download View as HTML


Mr Oats

Please find attached my response to your recent Freedom of Information
(FOI) request.

regards

Richard Arrowsmith, Group Leader
Highways Agency | 5 Broadway | Broad Street | Birmingham | B15 1BL
Web: [1]http://www.highways.gov.uk

Safe roads, Reliable journeys, Informed travellers
Highways Agency, an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport.

show quoted sections

Communications via the GSi may be automatically logged, monitored and/or
recorded for legal purposes.

References

Visible links
1. http://www.highways.gov.uk/

 

Live Streams/Feeds (may take a few seconds to open when feeds are updating)

Leave a Reply

  

  

  


eight − = 4

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>