David Walters - Regulation and Governance Manager
David Walters, Regulation and Governance Manager
The best use of the road network is important for economic vitality and society in general. The primary purpose of a road remains facilitating movement. The local road network is a finite resource with legitimate and competing pressures from road users.
Reliable journey times are important to road users. This has to be balanced against the needs of the local transport authorities, utilities and communities in order to maintain and upgrade the network.
The Council has a range of duties and powers as the Highway Authority. These are set out in The Highways Act 1980; The New Roads and Street Works Act 1991; the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984; the Traffic Management Act 2004 and the Road Traffic Act 1988.
Network Management and the Traffic Management Act 2004, Section 16
The Traffic Management Act 2004 places a duty on the local authority to manage their road network to enable traffic to move freely and quickly on their roads and roads of nearby local authorities and the strategic network, such as that managed by Highways England (HE).The responsibility for ensuring this duty is met is that of the Traffic Manager (David Walters). This is a statutory post. Physical and classification changes to the network and the impact on the network of neighbouring authorities is the responsibility of the Traffic Manager.
Road Classification and the Primary Route Network (PRN)
The PRN designates roads between places of traffic importance across the UK with the aim of providing easily identifiable routes to access the whole of the country.
A series of locations, designated as primary destinations, are identified by the Department of Transport (DfT), which are then linked by roads. From January 2012 local highway authorities have the responsibility for management of the road classification system (with central government approval).
DfT guidance states that the PRN must provide unrestricted access to 40 tonne vehicles. The implementation of a weight restriction would require reclassification to remove its primary route status. A significant change to the PRN would require the Highways Authority to consult with other highways authorities. Where a change has an impact on the strategic road network, the highways authority must consult with HE. Agreement of all affected authorities must be obtained before a change to the PRN can be made. The Secretary of State (SoS) for Transport retains ultimate power over the PRN. The removal of a section of the road from the PRN would require replacement and modification of signage along the local authority network, HE network and adjoining local authority network. The cost of this would be the responsibility of the authority initiating the reclassification.
Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO)
Placing a weight restriction order on a road is done by a TRO (made under the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984). The SoS for Transport is responsible for authorising TROs on motorway and trunk roads. For authorities outside London the County Council are the relevant authority. The SoS has the power to lay down the procedure to be followed in making orders (Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996. The procedure to make a permanent order requires the authority to consult with organisations and road users.
The Regulations specify the publicity and consultation procedure that must be followed. Whilst consultation with some organisation is only required if the proposed order has an impact on them, the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Freight Transport Association (FTA) must be consulted on all occasions. The relevant Chief Constable must be consulted before making an order for certain purposes, including prohibiting commercial vehicles from using a particular road. The authority does not have to accept the advice from the Police, but the order could be ignored by motorists if not enforced by the Police. Anyone may object to an order within 21 days of the notice being given.
A public enquiry only has to be held if the order affects loading, unloading at certain times of the day or bus services. Whilst the highways authority can make TROs without SoS consent or public enquiry, failure to follow proper procedure could result in a High Court challenge.
Enforcement of TROs
The responsibility for enforcement of a TRO varies depending on the type of Order. The enforcement of a weight limit generally remains the responsibility of the Police. Trading standards and planning services officers may carry out enforcement work.
Enforcement can be time consuming and expensive and requires evidence that access to premises along the route is not required. It was proposed that implementing a width restriction supported by physical measures is easier, but would restrict HGVs with a legitimate need for access.
Parking has been decriminalised and is carried out by highway authorities (Traffic Management Act 2004).
The responsibility for enforcement of moving traffic offences is the responsibility of the SoS (this includes the enforcement of weight restrictions).
Emergency Diversion Route (EDR)
County Councils have the responsibility to reduce, control or mitigate the effects of an emergency (Civil Contingencies Act 2004). This could include closure of part of the strategic road network. The Council also has a duty of care to the public stranded in traffic congestion.
EDRs help Highways England and Local Authorities manage traffic after closure of the strategic network via pre-planned, checked and agreed junction to junction diversion routes. Before introducing an EDR the route is investigated for suitability identifying traffic ‘pinch points’. A PRN would generally be considered a suitable EDR. SCC and HE are reviewing EDRs in the county including those associated with the A38.