Motoring: Better red route than dead stop

London and traffic congestion go tog-ether like a horse and carriage. Even on a good day, motorists are likely to move about as fast as the horse-drawn Metropolis did a century ago (11 mph). Unless that is, you happen to be on a fast-flowing red route - those congestion miracle cures announced in January 1990.

A red route is designed to improve the movement of all traffic by providing no stopping zones, bus lanes and designated parking bays. The scheme was launched primarily as a pilot and affected only north and east London.

This sole red route runs for 7.8 miles, mainly along single carriageway with two lanes in each direction. It stretches along the A1 trunk road from Highgate to the Angel, then along the inner ring road to Shoreditch, ending with the A13 to Stepney.

In 1993, the Transport Research Laboratory published an extensive report on its effects: average journey times for motorists were down by 6

minutes to 20 minutes. Parking problems were answered with 620 new, free short-term spaces and l,200 stopping places in 200 marked bays. Bus lanes were increased from 2.9km to 5.02km, bringing an 8-minute improvement in journey times.

Cyclists benefited from four new crossing points, while pedestrians got 17 new crossing places. Accident casualties fell by 17 per cent since 1991.

Detailed local plans have now been completed for an additional 315-mile network ofred routes and the first will be implemented early next year. They include the A3 from the Greater London boundary to Roehampton Lane, then the A205 South Circular Road from Roehampton Lane along Upper Richmond Road and Clifford Avenue, to its junction with the A316 Lower Richmond Road and the A316 south-west to the borough boundary near Sunbury.

Not everyone is happy with red routes. There have been accusations that they are effectively mini-motorways which divide communities, are dangerous for pedestrians and kill off passing trade for small businesses.

Klaus Meyer, chairman of the National Council on Inland Transport and the London region of the pressure group Transport 2000, argues that the red routes should lead to the introduction of more bus lanes. Initial surveys show higher travel speeds, but a loss of trade.

'The crucial question is whether these higher speeds and flows will bring more private cars into central London.

Derek Turner, traffic director for London, said: 'When it comes to buses there is no argument. The pilot has been a great success, especially in view of a 2.6 per cent London-wide decline in bus use. He believes that by keeping traffic moving at a steady speed and drawing 'rat- runners out of residential side roads, there will be an improvement in pollution levels.

Businesses should also be helped by the provision of legal short-term parking where none existed, and goods delivery and pick-up is clearly permitted by the relevant boxes. Injuries to cyclists fell by 19 per cent in the first 18 months.

Mr Turner is also committed to providing cyclists with improved facilities at the 305 points where the cycle network and red routes cross. And additional traffic-calming measures give pedestrians priority over traffic joining the routes.

Double red lines mean no stopping at any time.

A single red line prohibits stopping, usually between 7am and 7pm, from Monday to Saturday. No stopping means halting for any reason other than an obstruction, other traffic, breakdown, or for safety reasons. Orange-badged cars can stop to pick up or drop the disabled.

On a red route, stopping is permitted in boxes marked on the road at the times indicated. Some may be for loading, or short-term free parking residents' bays, or cars displaying an orange disability badge. However, on boxes marked with red paint, stopping is allowed only at certain periods. Where stopping is possible at any time, including the restricted 7am to 7pm periods, these areas will be marked with white-painted boxes.

Illegal parking on red routes carries a higher penalty than other roads. The fixed penalty is pounds 40, enforced by both police and traffic wardens.

Until someone devises a more radical solution to

congestion, London motorists will be seeing red for some time to come.

(Photograph omitted)