Secret speed cameras plan
London Evening Standard | April 22, 2005
By Andrew Gilligan And David Williams
Transport for London chiefs have put forward controversial plans to increase the number of speed cameras by up to 37 per cent this year.
Secret papers, leaked to the Evening Standard, make clear that one of the purposes of the move to add up to 180 new fixed camera sites is to "produce a steady daily flow of offences".
The thresholds at which the cameras catch drivers are adjusted to ensure the number of offences collected is kept to "a pre-determined daily level", the documents say.
TfL said today the plans have been refused by the Department-for Transport, which has agreed to 66 new fixed sites this year.
But a TfL spokesman made clear that the rejected sites were "still on our list to come in the future" and would be resubmitted later.
There are 480 fixed speed camera sites in London. The plans obtained by the Standard call for "at least 120" extra sites and reveal that even this ambitious programme "could be accelerated" to 180 extra sites if plans to "outsource" back-office functions go ahead.
The TfL spokesman admitted the wording of the leaked documents was "unfortunate".
He said: "The idea of producing a steady flow of offences is to make sure back-room staff do not get overwhelmed and can deal with the flow. These proposals are about reducing the number of accidents, not increasing revenue."
The plans have caused a major row between TfL and the Metropolitan Police, the main players in the "safety camera partnership" which runs London's traffic cameras.
Top officers in the Met, worried that the cameras are damaging-their relationship with the public, helped block the plans. "There is a wrestle for power within the partnership," said one police source. "We as a police service have always tried to strike a balance between achieving reductions in speeding and accidents and at the same time not alienating the whole community."
The plans show the cameras are projected to make a " surplus", or profit, of Â£719,650 in the current financial year.
This could rise if the number of drivers paying their fines could be increased above the current 40 per cent. TfL wants to outsource the Met's "inefficient"-offence-processing to Essex Police to increase the rate - another move furiously resisted by Scotland Yard.
Jenny Jones, the Mayor's road safety czar, said police opposition to more cameras was putting lives at risk. "They are putting politics ahead of the importance of the lives of Londoners," she said, adding that 40 deaths and injuries a year could be prevented if the full plans went ahead.
The Met blamed its difficulties in collecting speed fines on a recruitment freeze imposed by the Government.