Turning off traffic lights in London at night would slash vehicle emissions, wasted fuel, and journey delays – saving the Capital’s drivers millions of pounds every year.
A new report, “Green Light”, urges transport bosses and local authorities to assess road usage and traffic flow, and, where it is deemed safe, to turn off London’s traffic lights between midnight and 6am.¹
Switching off lights for the six-hour overnight period across 80 per cent of the Capital’s 2,532 relevant junctions would cut delays across the city by 2,251 hours every day – saving motorists £40m by 2020 in saved time and fuel.²
Author of the report, GLA Conservative transport spokesman, Richard Tracey said:
“Every year Londoners waste over 170 million hours sitting in traffic, costing London’s economy £4bn. Many of these journeys in our city are unavoidable. But rather than hurting motorists with ridiculous charges and taxes, we should look at innovative ways to cut congestion and make traffic flow more smoothly. Turning off traffic lights at night, like they do in parts of Europe and North America, is one measure which would boost the economy and help the environment. A common sense approach in the right places would cut idling and therefore vehicle emissions, motorists would save cash as less fuel is wasted, and journey times would be slashed meaning deliveries are completed quicker and cabbies are able to take on more jobs. Even if lights were turned off for just six hours overnight, accounting for non-suitable junctions, drivers could save £40m over four years in saved time and fuel alone.”
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¹ Traffic lights should of course be used when needed – during peak times and on busy junctions to regulate traffic flow and keep road users safe. But keeping them on for 24 hours a day, in every part of London, is unnecessary. When the introduction of a traffic light is being considered, the decision is subject to TfL’s traffic lights design standards. If a traffic light has been introduced because a road is exceptionally busy during peak hours, the criteria would rightly ensure that the traffic light remains operative at that time. Under this policy proposal, the design standards would assess the safety of other periods separately. Where the criteria suggest that the traffic lights should be turned off at these times, TfL and London’s boroughs should do so.
² In 2009, a GLA Economics study, modelled the economic benefits of removing traffic lights, showing an overall 14% reduction in delays. Using the volume of traffic between 12-6am, the estimated average reduction of delays by turning off the traffic signals would be 53 minutes per day per junction. The average saving if applied to the 2,532 relevant junctions (which is the number excluding pelican and toucan crossings) would equate to 2,251 hours saved a day. The average off-peak value of time per vehicle according to DfT is £13.60 an hour, meaning these hours saved would equate to £30k a day across London in saved time. With 0.7 litres of fuel wasted per hour of idling, this brings another £737k a year in saved fuel. Applied across a year, this would equal £12m in savings. With minority of roads taking a majority of the traffic, even if signals at 80% of these junctions were suitable to be turned off at night, a savings of £10m a year could be made across London.