Road markings removal trial considered

Road markings may be removed in an attempt to slow down drivers as part of a safety trial.

A report in The Times newspaper suggested a pilot scheme to remove markings on roads in rural Norfolk is being planned, following on from similar research trials in London, Derby and Wiltshire.

The previously undertaken research said motorists driver slower on roads without white markings.

After a trial of the idea in 2014, Transport for London (TfL) suggested, ‘centre line removal introduces an element of uncertainty which is reflected in lower speeds.’

The scheme took place on three roads in London that had been subject to resurfacing, with the markings not reapplied. The research found what TfL described as a ‘statistically significant’ speed reduction by a minimum of 5.4mph.

Road safety charity RoadPeace has said ‘self enforcing schemes’ are key to helping to reduce speeding as road policing budgets face cuts.

The move was also supported by vehicle management company LeasePlan.

The firm’s business development director Lesley Slater said, ‘The remodelling of Exhibition Road experiment provides evidence to suggest that removing not only central white line markings, but other traditional safeguards – from road signs to traffic lights and even pavements – actually reduces the accident rate and improves traffic flow.

‘When removed, drivers police their own traffic flow more effectively and are more considerate.’

But the move has been met by some opposition. Speaking to The Times, the AA’s head of roads policy, Paul Watters, said, ‘Without exaggeration it is true to say that a simple pot of paint can save lives.

‘In particular, highly visible markings at the edge and centre of the road that can be seen on a wet night are enormously cost-effective in saving lives.’

RAC public affairs manager Nicholas Lyes added, ‘There may be some areas where there’s a benefit but a lot where the disadvantages outweigh any potential benefits.

‘We are also seeing the incorporation of ‘lane assist’ technology in modern vehicles reliant on the white lines to trigger an alert warning the driver that they are straying out of lane. The same technology is also being used in prototype driverless cars so it seems counter-intuitive to remove white lines from major main roads and motorways.

‘It could be seen as a cynical attempt at road safety on the cheap and there will be some that are keen to suggest it is a cost saving, albeit a small one in the overall cost of road maintenance.’