By Roger Lawson
The Traffic Management Act was passed by Parliament in 2004. Its objective was to improve the management of the road network. Part 2 of the Act imposes a duty on all local traffic authorities to secure the expeditious movement of traffic on their road networks. Authorities are required to make arrangements as they consider appropriate for planning and carrying out the action to be taken in performing the duty and part of the arrangements must be the appointment of a “Traffic Manager”.
Section 16 of the Act specifically says:
The network management duty
(1) It is the duty of a local traffic authority or a strategic highways company (“the network management authority”) to manage their road network with a view to achieving, so far as may be reasonably practicable having regard to their other obligations, policies and objectives, the following objectives—
(a) securing the expeditious movement of traffic on the authority’s road network; and
(b) facilitating the expeditious movement of traffic on road networks for which another authority is the traffic authority.
(2) The action which the authority may take in performing that duty includes, in particular, any action which they consider will contribute to securing—
(a) the more efficient use of their road network; or
(b) the avoidance, elimination or reduction of road congestion or other disruption to the movement of traffic on their road network or a road network for which another authority is the traffic authority;and may involve the exercise of any power to regulate or co-ordinate the uses made of any road (or part of a road) in the road network (whether or not the power was conferred on them in their capacity as a traffic authority).
But the road closures that are taking place all over London and in many other parts of the country are surely ignoring that obligation. In other words, the law of the land is being ignored. As a result we have massively increased congestion which the Act was designed originally to avoid.
Local councils such as Lewisham are claiming that they can do so because of the Guidance published by the Secretary of State in May (See Reference 2). This provided additional guidance on how to adapt roads to cope with the Covid-19 epidemic – for example to improve the support for active travel modes such as walking and cycling . That included reallocation of road space and the use of Modal Filters to close roads to motor traffic. But that surely contradicts the basic wording and obligations imposed by the Act of Parliament. That should not be overturned simply because some civil servant in Whitehall thinks it’s a good idea to do so.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is apparently reviewing the Act but it would surely be unwise to change the principles behind the Act as it stands.
Reference 1: The Traffic Management Act 2004: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2004/18/contents
Reference 2: Statutory Guidance 2020: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reallocating-road-space-in-response-to-covid-19-statutory-guidance-for-local-authorities/traffic-management-act-2004-network-management-in-response-to-covid-19
Reference 3: Statutory Guidance 2004: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/roads/tpm/tmaportal/tmafeatures/tmapart2/tmafeaturespart2.pdf