On 14 February the Welsh Government published a report from the Roads Review Panel, an independent body appointed by the government entitled The Future of Road Investment in Wales. As this issue's contribution to the ongoing debate about the dualling of the A9 and A96 this excerpt addresses the safety claims of those MSPs who are determined to see the dualling take place. Section 5 of the report, entitled "Principals for Future Road Development" contains these general recommendations:
1. The Panel recommends that in future, schemes that modify the form of a road should only be for these four purposes:
2. The Panel recommends that road schemes that are consistent with current policy (i.e. schemes that achieve mode shift, reduce casualties, adapt roads to impacts of climate change, or provide access to development sites that will achieve high sustainable transport mode share) should meet four conditions:
This subsection talks about the second purpose listed above under Recommendation 1 - Reducing casualties where they are high, through small-scale changes.
5.4 The Panel considered that capital enhancements that change road or junction layouts may be appropriate where there are concerns in relation to safety, evidenced by a significantly higher rate of personal injury collisions than anticipated for the type of road, traffic volume or location.
However, before making changes to a road or junction layout, non-infrastructure measures to reduce casualties should be fully appraised, including lower speed limits; speed enforcement; enhanced road markings; and warning and other signs. These measures may achieve a sufficiently large reduction in casualties, and be more cost effective than changes to the road or junction layout. Speed limit reduction can provide a safety benefit over the length of a route, and may complement even lower limits at discrete locations. These measures also have low or zero embodied carbon emissions; and measures to reduce speeds have the added benefit that they reduce carbon dioxide emissions in use. Evidence should be provided that these non-infrastructure interventions are not as effective as required before beginning to consider more significant infrastructure interventions.
When appraising schemes that reduce speeds to improve safety, the Panel recommends that the resulting small increases in journey time should not be treated as a disbenefit in cost-benefit calculations. This will remove the possibility that safety is traded against journey time reductions in appraisal.
Where changes to road or junction layouts are necessary, the Sustainable Transport Hierarchy should be used to inform design development and decision- making. This means that priority must be given to changes to layout that reduce risk for people walking and cycling (who are at higher risk of death or serious injury) while providing more direct and convenient routes for these road users.
The above recommendations relate to capital safety enhancements, which change the form of the road asset, and not to routine maintenance and asset renewal which change its condition.
The Lugg Review of "Strategic Road Network Programmes in Relation to Meeting Statutory Duties" makes recommendations as to how the "safety-critical elements" of maintenance and asset renewal programmes should be prioritised and progressed.
Setting an objective to reduce road casualties does not, on its own, make a scheme consistent with current policy. An assessment is needed as to whether the scheme, in its entirety, is the most effective option to achieve that objective, and whether it may have the unintended effect of making other policy aims, particularly in relation to modal shift and carbon emissions, more difficult to achieve.
As Transform Scotland points out on its website, "The report recommends that road schemes should only be for the purposes of promoting sustainable transport, adapting to climate change, serving sustainable development or improving road safety. This is a very high bar for road schemes to pass, representing a revolution in the way that schemes are considered, and few existing road proposals in Wales will meet these new criteria."
Clearly the A9 and A96 dualling projects would not be justifiable if the Scottish Government were to commission and adopt a similar report.