Letter: A green light for the Red Routes

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The Independent Online
Sir: Christian Wolmar ('Urban Europe looks to future without cars', 25 March) sadly dismisses the Red Route initiative as 'aiming to speed up the journeys of car commuters of main routes into the capital'.

This is far too simplistic. In a nutshell, priority (Red) Route measures aim to make more efficient use of existing road space. There is no special advantage given to car commuters. In fact, it is a key objective not to increase car commuting into central London.

We have to balance the conflicting needs for road space, which is a valuable and scarce commodity. My aim is to ensure that pedestrians, cyclists and people with a disability will gain substantially from Red Routes.

I also aim to improve conditions for buses. Evidence from the pilot scheme is that buses benefit greatly from the special measures and the general improved flow of traffic. The number of passengers increased by more than 8,500 and an express service was introduced to take advantage of the improvements, further increasing the number of bus users.

The intellectual argument that use of the private car in cities should be discouraged is easy to espouse. The difficulty comes in creating practical measures to achieve this.

Your report appears to seek to draw a comparison between London and certain other Western European cities. Unfortunately, such comparisons are largely invalid because circumstances in London are different. It is bigger than all except Paris, with a larger influx of daily commuters from outside the metropolitan area than other European cities. It also has a large number of important centres, such as Croydon, in addition to the central area.

It is not disputed that there must be substantial new investment in public transport, but it is equally important to improve the way the existing road network operates, especially for bus services and delivery vehicles. This is what Red Routes will achieve.

It is important to note that at the Amsterdam conference you refer to, other European capitals applauded the approach we are taking on Red Routes and are considering similar schemes on their key main roads.

Yours faithfully,


London, SW1

28 March

The writer is traffic director for London.