Transport for London (TfL) was today criticised by the UK Metric Association (UKMA) for bungling the erection of new signs at the Rotherhithe tunnel, including banning all vehicles over 33 inches long from using the tunnel – and for wasting up to £6000 on erecting or amending new signs that will soon be obsolete.
This is the press release issued by UKMA on 26 March.
LONDON, 26 March 2010. Transport for London (TfL) was today criticised by the UK Metric Association (UKMA) for bungling the erection of new signs at the Rotherhithe tunnel, including banning all vehicles over 33 inches long from using the tunnel.
Warning signs at low bridges and tunnels are normally signed in metres as well as feet, following Department for Transport (DfT) advice to reduce the number of large vehicles getting stuck and causing delays, particularly foreign goods vehicles.
However, TfL recently spent over £6,000 on new restriction signs at the tunnel entrances, but failed to add metres to many of the signs at the southern end, despite increasing problems with over-height vehicles at London’s river crossings (see pictures below).
Even more bizarrely, not only is the 10 metre length restriction still not posted in metres, but new signs have been erected which ban all vehicles longer than 33 inches from using the tunnel, instead of 33 feet.
UKMA Chairman Robin Paice said, “It beggars belief that new height restriction signs have been installed at the Rotherhithe tunnel without following long-standing national guidance and including metres, which could have been added at no extra cost and reduced the delays incurred whenever over-height vehicles try to enter the tunnel.”
“At the northern end, metres are included on the height and width signs, but not on the length restriction. Even those erecting the signs clearly don’t understand the imperial units very well, having signed the 10 metre length restriction as 33 inches! If the government allowed the simple 10 m restriction to be added it is highly unlikely that the wrong measurement would have been posted as it would have been quite obvious that the signs were wrong.”
In 2009 the Department for Transport announced a proposal that the current recommendation that metres should be included on height restriction signs should become mandatory – meaning that the new signs will need to be replaced again.
When asked what plans TfL had to implement the DfT’s 1990s advice to add metres to height restrictions, TfL replied that “currently there is no programme to replace any signs which remain legal. If the use of metric becomes mandatory, a cost effective programme will be put in place to update all of the non-compliant signs.”
Robin Paice responds, “It is extraordinary that rather than implement the DfT’s guidance at no cost when new signs are erected, TfL would rather waste money on new signs which will shortly be obsolete, and which increase the risk of accidents on London’s main roads.”
UKMA is calling on all highway authorities to update their vehicle restriction signs to include metres in accordance with DfT advice at the earliest opportunity, rather than waiting for the deadline for mandatory replacement of imperial-only signs to approach.
ANNEX 1: DEPARTMENT FOR TRANSPORT GUIDANCE
Traffic Signs Manual Chapter 3
Department for Transport, 2008
On width signs (para 5.36):
“It is recommended that this sign [metric and imperial] is used in preference to the sign to diagram 629 [imperial-only signs].”
On length signs (para 5.38):
“It is recommended that both the imperial and metric sign should be used wherever practicable.”
On height signs (para 5.42):
“It is recommended that the sign to diagram 629.2A [metric and imperial] is used in preference to the imperial-only sign.”
Draft Traffic Signs (Amendment) Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) 2010
Department for Transport, September 2009
Draft changes to the regulations to come into force in Spring 2010:
“Width and Height Restrictions
2. We are making changes to require both metric and imperial triangular warning signs to be displayed to give warnings of restricted headroom, with the upgrade being complete in four years’ time. Using the imperial sign on its own will no longer be permitted.
3. We are making similar changes to require both metric and imperial measurements to be displayed on all width and height restriction roundel signs, with the upgrade being complete in four years’ time. The current imperial-only signs shown in diagrams 629 and 629.2 will be withdrawn.”
ANNEX 2: PHOTOGRAPHS ATTACHED
All photos by UKMA. News organisations are free to use any of these photographs to accompany this story, with or without credit to UKMA (but not credited to others).
Picture 1: New panel at Rotherhithe tunnel with height in feet only
Picture 2: New panel at Rotherhithe tunnel with height and width in feet only
Picture 3: 10 metre length restriction signed as 33 inches (or around one metre)
Picture 4: Close-up of 10 metre length restriction signed as 33 inches