Drivers have been fined almost £1m for stopping in this yellow box junction near Piccadilly Circus

An ordinary-looking yellow-box junction in front of the world-famous Ritz Hotel has been revealed as a huge cash cow for motoring fines.

Covering three lanes of traffic in Piccadilly’s junction with Berkeley Street, it has single-handedly raised millions of pounds for Westminster Council in recent years.

And sitting about 600 yards from Piccadilly Circus, it is the only yellow-box junction in the whole borough where fines, or Penalty Charge Notices, are handed out.

Responding to a Freedom of Information request, the council council said the junction raised £902,980 from 6,946 PCNs in 2016/17 ― the equivalent of £2,473 every day.

However the number of fines issued at the junction ― where drivers are penalised for stopping in the yellow grid ― has been falling each year.

In 2017/18, there were 6,416 PCNs issued to motorists at the junction, raising £834,080.

Then in 2018/19, it fell to 4,595 fines, providing £597,350 for the council’s coffers.

The council argues that the junction often suffers from “inconsiderate drivers” who block the turning, and that the yellow-box has helped ease congestion.

Last month it was revealed that Westminster Council made £16.5 million from 313,000 PCNs in the 2018 calendar year, earning more than every local authority up and down the country.

Bad parking, using bus lanes, stopping in yellow-box junctions, and turning right and no-turn junctions, are all common offences that millions of motorists caught out by councils’ security cameras.

The council also named Oxendon Street, a side road adjacent to the Prince of Wales Theatre, as the location where more PCNs (5,030) were issued than anywhere else in the borough in 2018/19.

Many London councils justify the huge figures by using the cash for road maintenance. Unlike councils in the rest of England, they do not receive Government funding to spend on fixing the capital’s highways – 95 per cent of which are looked after by London’s 32 councils.

Last month, a report by the London Councils group said: “In 2018/19 alone, London authorities spent £96.8 million on carriageways, £83.6 million on structures, £76.3 million on footways, and £67.3 million on lighting.”

Westminster council deputy leader Tim Mitchell, said: “Inconsiderate drivers blocking this junction cause congestion which disrupts the lives of people travelilng through the city.

“Since we started enforcement action in the area we have seen a significant reduction in those breaking the rules – easing congestion on Piccadilly, one of London’s busiest roads.

“The camera will be moved to another location when the number of driving offences on the junction falls to an acceptable level.

“With over a million daily visitors and many of the country’s biggest attractions it would be a surprise if Westminster wasn’t at the top of the list for PCNs. All of the money we raise through parking is reinvested in transport schemes including green schemes like our schools clean air fund and our diesel surcharge – which has led to a 16 per cent reduction in older diesel vehicles entering the city.”

Highways England teams weigh in with one tonne donation for food banks

Food banks coping with the increasing number of families in crisis over the school holidays have been given more than one tonne of food and essential items by teams working on Highways England schemes.

Almost 1000kg of items was collected by the teams taking care of motorways and main A roads across the East Midlands while workers carrying out the widening of the A500 in Staffordshire delivered 37kg of goods to help people in need and are continuing to collect.

From tinned goods to pasta and rice, to tea bags and toilet rolls, a shopping list of foods desperately needed by food banks for the emergency parcels was collected.

The donations came as the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank provider, revealed a 20 per cent increase in the number of food parcels going to children over the summer holidays last year.

Recent figures from the trust showed that 87,496 food parcels went to children in the UK during the summer break in 2018, 20 per cent up on the same period in 2017.

And the Trussell Trust expects demand this year to be as high as families who are entitled to free school meals during term time feel the extra financial pressure over the summer break.

To help those in local communities who risk going hungry this summer, staff from Highways England and the East Midlands Asset Delivery (EMAD) partnership organised collections at offices across the region – covering Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire.

The huge collection weighing almost one tonne included 156 tins of baked beans, 170 tins of tuna, 90 bags of pasta, 139 jars of cooking sauces, 155 tins of vegetables, 40 boxes of tea bags, 79 toilet rolls and over 300 nappies. The collections were divided up to go to three food banks in the region.

Highways England Assistant Contract Collaboration Manager Nicola Tomlinson said:

“This fantastic contribution from all of our suppliers really does take working collaboratively to the next level. I’m astounded by the generosity of the workforces and hope our donation will make a big difference to families in communities across our region.”

Kay Fleming, Framework Manager for nmcn, said “I’ve never seen so many tins of beans and I used to work in a shop! I’m so proud of the East Midlands’ Customer and People team who promoted this worthwhile cause.”

Meanwhile in Staffordshire, members of the Highways England and Osborne A500 Etruria Widening Team recently dropped off a delivery of food to the Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust network.

The A500 is being widened from two to three lanes in both directions between Porthill (A5271) and Wolstanton (A527) as part of a £17.5 million upgrade.

A collection box has been set up at the site office for food donations and the first delivery was made just before the schools broke up for summer. Collections will now continue over the duration of the scheme, due to finish autumn 2020.

Kimberley Wild, Osborne Performance Manager, said:

“We continue to try to find opportunities to engage and help local communities where possible, particularly when we are effectively part of the community for a period of time, through our work. We hope that the food bank will be successful and help support the community.”

Nigel Webster, from the Bulwell and Bestwood Foodbank in Nottingham, thanked EMAD for their donation and told how stocks were running low this time of year while Gareth Duffield, the Trussell Trust’s Area Manager for Birmingham and Northern Counties, added:

“We’re so glad food banks in our network could benefit from the collection organised by Highways England to help support people facing crisis. We have seen a record demand in food bank use in the past decade, with more and more people struggling to afford the basics. This isn’t right.

“We’re continually blown away by people’s support to provide emergency help, and ultimately work towards a future without hunger and poverty.”

Government doubles funding for on-street electric car charging

Additional £2.5 million for chargepoints on residential streets.

Owning and charging an electric vehicle is set to become more convenient than ever thanks to an additional £2.5 million to fund the installation of over 1,000 new chargepoints, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today (Monday 12 August 2019).

The funding will support the on-street residential chargepoint scheme, launched in 2017, which helps people access charging infrastructure near their homes when they don’t have off-street parking. It will go towards helping local authorities to install these chargepoints, which can be built into existing structures like lamp-posts. The scheme aims to encourage even more people to choose an electric vehicle by making it easier to charge their cars near home, following a 158% increase in battery electric vehicle sales compared to July last year.

The scheme has already seen 16 local authorities prepared to install 1,200 chargepoints this year. The Transport Secretary is now doubling funding for the popular scheme to meet demand and accelerate the take-up of electric vehicles as the UK moves towards net zero emissions by 2050 and further improve air quality.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

It’s fantastic that there are now more than 20,000 publicly accessible chargepoints and double the number of electric vehicle chargepoints than petrol stations, but we want to do much more.

It’s vital that electric vehicle drivers feel confident about the availability of chargepoints near their homes, and that charging an electric car is seen as easy as plugging in a smartphone.

That’s why we are now doubling the funding available for local authorities to continue building the infrastructure we need to super-charge the zero emission revolution – right across the country.

The allocation of funding for on-street residential chargepoints is part of the £1.5 billion investment underpinned by the Road to Zero Strategy. The strategy consists of one of the most comprehensive packages of support for the transition to zero emission vehicles in the world, supporting the move towards a cleaner, greener, accessible and reliable UK transport network.

As part of this, the government is also investing £37 million into British engineering to develop electric chargepoint infrastructure that could rapidly expand the UK chargepoint network for people without off-street parking and put the UK on the map as the best place in the world to own an electric vehicle.

Innovations to receive investment include underground charging systems, solar powered charging forecourts and wireless charging projects. Much like current mobile phone technology, wireless charging could mean an end to needing to plug your electric vehicle in.

Balfour Beatty to install UK’s first hydroponic living wall

Balfour Beatty Living Places and green infrastructure experts, Biotecture, are set to deliver the UK’s first hydroponic living wall on a highways scheme.

On behalf of Southampton City Council, Balfour Beatty will install the first hydroponic living wall on a highways scheme commenced this summer.

Hydroponic living walls are sustainable, vertical installations containing living plants and foliage which grow without the need for soil. Offering many benefits to the public and the environment, these green and living structures help to remove air pollutants through the absorption of gases such as Carbon Dioxide, Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Dioxide, as well as hazardous particulate matter.

Forming part of the newly reconstructed Millbrook Roundabout that Balfour Beatty Living Places successfully completed ahead of schedule earlier this year, the company will now install the foundations and six-metre-high steel frame, while Biotecture will design and position the hydroponic living wall.

Balfour Beatty Living Places managing director, Steve Helliwell, said: “We are incredibly proud to be working with Southampton City Council and Biotecture on this flagship project – a first in the UK. This is a project which has the potential to transform the way we sustainably deliver highways schemes across the industry.

“Sustainability is at the heart of what we do and in the solutions we provide to our customers. Through this project, we will not only improve air quality for local residents but improve the aesthetic of the roundabout for the travelling public and the wider community in Southampton.”

Richard Sabin, managing director of Biotecture, commented: “Yet to be seen on the UK road network, the Millbrook green columns are evocative of the Via Verde highway pillars in Mexico City, and they’ll help with air pollution reduction. We are very excited to be working on this flagship scheme in Southampton.”

Councillor Jacqui Rayment, cabinet member for transport & public realm, added: “We have committed to making Southampton a clean, green, sustainable and successful city through our Green City Charter. The Living Wall project at Millbrook Roundabout is the first of its kind in the UK.

“It’s an exciting way to make our public spaces more attractive whilst at the same time having a beneficial effect on the environment. Investing in greening projects like this will play an important part in safeguarding our local environment for future generations.”

Works commenced this summer with project completion expected in autumn 2019.

M1 motorway near Meadowhall to be closed while £7.5 million upgrade works carried out

The M1 will be closed near Meadowhall as work gets under way on a £7.5 million upgrade of the motorway.

Highways England will carry out work on the M1 between junction 32 for the M18 at Thurcroft and junction 34 at Meadowhall over the next financial year, starting this weekend.

The northbound carriageway will be closed overnight on Friday from 9.30pm until 6am, Saturday from 10pm until 8am and Sunday from 10pm until 5am while the works are carried out.

Works will include resurfacing, bridge and lighting improvements as well as barrier and drainage work on the stretch, which is used by around 110,000 drivers every day.

The M1 at junction 33 for Catcliffe.

Mark Ramsden, Highways England programme lead, said: “We are carrying out £80million of maintenance improvements in Yorkshire and the Humber over this financial year and that includes investing more than £7.5m on this section of the M1.

“Work is due to start this month on the bridges over the River Rother and Long Lane. This work has been brought forward so we can continue to provide drivers with smoother and safer journeys along the M1 after a number of potholes in this area.

“We are working closely with Rotherham and Sheffield councils to minimise any impact while we carry out this work.

“We have just completed work on the southbound carriageway of the lower deck of Tinsley Viaduct and work has now started on the middle maintenance lane.

“There are a further five schemes planned over the next 12 months. This includes work to the upper deck of the Tinsley Viaduct planned for later this year and upgrading the lighting around this busy junction in the new year.”

Highways England is replacing 40,650 sq m of road surface. Work has already been carried out at Tinsley Viaduct and work will take place between M1 junction 36 and Westwood roundabout and on some of the M1 slip roads at junction 34 and junction 35a. This work will provide drivers with smoother and safer journeys.

Work will be carried out over the next two weekends and the northbound carriageway will be reduced to two narrow lanes from 6am until 10pm on Saturday and between 8am and 10pm on Sunday.

A reduced speed limit will be in place for around half a mile near to junction 33. Clearly-signed diversions will be in place during the closures. The same arrangements will be in place the following weekend starting on Friday, August 16.

Harwich’s speed volunteers are first in the UK to be given enforcement powers

A dedicated speed watch group will become the first in the country to be given enforcement powers, under a new Safer Essex Roads Partnership initiative.

The Harwich and District SERP Volunteers have been trained an authorised by Essex Police to enforce speed limits within their community, together with attending events, schools and colleges to raise road safety awareness.

The volunteers, made up of members of the Harwich and District Community Speed Watch group, will be the first in the UK to take part in the scheme.

The initiative is designed to raise awareness of the consequences of speeding, failing to wear your seatbelt, using your phone while driving or driving under the influence of drink or drugs – commonly known as the fatal four.

It also means the volunteers will be the first in the country to be able to use the police’s Trucam and issue penalty charge notice letters to speeding drivers.

Dave Blackiston, co-ordinator of the Harwich and District SERP Volunteers, said: “The new Safer Essex Roads Partnership Volunteer team comes from the local community and will work with the community to increase the awareness of the consequences of the fatal four, through education and enforcement.

“We hope our presence will act as a deterrent and will make people aware of their speed.

“This isn’t about catching people, this is about building on the work of the Safer Essex Roads Partnership in saving lives.

“I feel very proud to be able to support our local area by highlighting the dangers of unsafe driving.”

Volunteers will also work with Essex Police in their role as road safety ambassadors within their community. Nicola Foster, chairman of SERP, said: “This is a fantastic new initiative that supports residents who want to increase the awareness within their community and who are prepared to give up their time to be a visible safe presence on the roads.

“Please encourage everyone you know to drive safely, which includes keeping within the speed limits; particularly through rural communities and to support the work of these volunteers.”

Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Improving safety on our roads is one of the priorities in my police and crime plan.

“Our objective is to reduce harm on the roads and promote safer driving.

“I’m pleased to see that we are giving communities extra technology to help deter drivers from speeding and are able to act on the concerns that residents have raised.”

This is a pilot initiative which launched on Wednesday and will be reviewed after 12 months.

Highways England cancels plans to close M20 slip roads at Ashford in August

Highways England has backtracked on its decision to permanently close two M20 slip roads next week.

KentLive revealed on Sunday (July 28) Highways England had announced the coastbound slip road onto the M20 at junction 10 would be shut from Monday, August 5.

The Londonbound exit slip road at the same junction was also pegged for permanent closure that day.

But now, bosses at the agency have made a U-turn after “talks with local stakeholders”.

A spokesman said: “We are making good progress on creating a new M20 junction for Ashford, which will tackle congestion and bring huge benefits for the town.

“The project has always involved closing the east facing slip roads at the existing junction 10, as they will be superseded by the new junction.

“We had been preparing to make this change from next week but having spoken with local stakeholders we will now do it at a later date.

“Minimising disruption from the roadworks is a priority for us and we are always happy to take local views into account.”

The closures were always planned, says Highways, and are to allow for new ones to be constructed at junction 10a , which is expected to partly open in the autumn of this year .

Some motorists were left confused at the plans to shut the slip roads before the replacements were opened.

One driver said: “What idiot thought of shutting these slip roads ages before 10a is ready.

“Surely the new junction could have been made ready with the slip roads available to go coastbound or off londonbound before they close the existing on junction 10.

“They obviously don’t live here and have to use these junctions.”

Although the closure has been postponed, it is unclear exactly when the slip roads will now be closed.

A date has not yet been announced and there is no indication of whether it will be before or after the new ones at junction 10a open.

When will junction 10a works finish?
Highways England currently predict that works will end in the summer of 2020 if everything runs smoothly and on schedule.

They hope that the new junction and link road will be open for traffic in autumn of this year.

The new motorway gyratory over the M20 has now been installed after both East and West Interchange bridges were built during weekend closures.

In the immediate future, workers will surface the new A2070 roundabout, install the new Church Road footbridge and build the slip roads for the new junction.

When it is all finished, there will be:

  • a new roundabout over the motorway
  • new slip roads
  • a new link road to the A2070 Bad Munstereifel Road, with traffic signals on parts of the junction and two 3-lane bridges
  • removal of the east facing slip roads at the existing junction 10
  • A20 Hythe Road incorporated in the new junction so that the traffic in both directions can travel via the new roundabout
  • a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the M20 from Kingsford Street to the A20, demolishing the existing Highfield Lane Bridge
  • replacement of Church Road footbridge over the A2070


Council is committed to road safety for all ages

Road safety education is a key service Nottinghamshire County Council provides in partnership with Via East Midlands, and we at the council passionately believe it makes a positive difference at all stages of life, writes Coun Gordon Wheeler.

Everyone in the county is a highway user, whether on foot, bicycle or in motor vehicles.

The council is pleased to be able to offer almost 30 cycle training events for riders of all ages across the county this summer.

Events range from teaching young children to learn to ride with balance bikes, progressing to cycling activities in a traffic-free environment before ultimately giving young people the cycle skills to navigate more challenging traffic situations.

Details on the full programme of events over the summer can be found on the council’s website.

More than 10,000 people have completed the Bikeability scheme this year, which forms part of the cycle training, and the council is now working with partners to roll out a ‘close pass’ campaign that encourages drivers to give cyclists more room and cyclists to adopt good road positions.

Casualty figures from the county’s roads, along with national trends, has identified secondary aged children as a key audience and this work has seen a significant reduction in the number of teenage road casualties in the county.

Sessions are as interactive as possible, starting from year seven right through to sixth form.

They look at the change in the modes of transport as people mature into adulthood and educate youngsters to consider attitudes and behaviour, such as the dangers of being distracted, how our choices affect road safety, overcrowding in cars and the consequences of young drivers being involved in accidents.

Figures also suggest there has been a significant increase in accidents involving drivers aged 70 and over, so it’s important to offer a programme designed to support them too.

For example, the Drive On scheme aims to keep people safely behind the wheel for as long as possible by helping them to understand the issues which can impact their driving.

The scheme is really taking off and has been delivered in partnership with groups such as U3As and WI groups, with many attendees taking up the opportunity to go on an accompanied drive with a qualified instructor.

Another important part of this scheme is to encourage people to have that ‘difficult conversation’ with older relatives and friends to raise any concerns they might have about their driving.

Keep an eye out for posters and postcards in your area and help spread the word about safer driving in later life and the support on offer.

Coventry to warn motorists of pollution hotspots with electronic signs

Coventry City Council will use Variable Message Signs (VMS) to warn motorists of air pollution hotspots in the city.

The council will deploy a network of EarthSense Zephyr air quality sensors in areas of Coventry where levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are known to be high, particularly along the A4600 route at Walsgrave Road – a major link in and out of the city.

When pollution levels are breached, the Zephyr sensors send alerts directly to the Urban Traffic Management Centre where they automatically trigger messaging on Variable Message Signs (VMS) for motorists and the general public around the city.

The city council says they are using messages informing motorists of the elevated pollution levels and suggestions to use alternative routes in a bid to drive behavioural change and ease the pressures at pollution hotspots.

Commenting on the project, John Seddon, head of transport & innovation at Coventry City Council said, ‘The city council is keen to install the right technology across Coventry’s road network to allow us to dynamically manage traffic and respond to issues such as poor air quality or traffic incidents as soon as they happen.

‘The EarthSense Zephyr sensors will support us in achieving this aim by allowing real-time monitoring of air quality conditions on a key corridor into the city, and we are excited to see results of this system following successful deployment of sensors earlier this year.’

The final results of the pilot will be reported in December 2019.

In May, Coventry City Council were directed by government to implement a Class D charging Clean Air Zone (CAZ) to tackle the city’s air pollution problems.

Ministers had rejected alternative measures put forward by the council, which included restricting traffic on certain roads, deeming them to be insufficient to tackle illegal NO2 levels.

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£2 million will be use to fund the adoption of cutting-edge tech for road improvement.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning will be used to improve road markings across the UK, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced.

As part of a wider £350 million fund to improve the quality of local roads, the department will use £2 million in partnership with an AI startup and a road safety group to advise councils on where best to utilise investment.

DfT will work with the Local Condition Roads Innovation Group (LCRIG), which in turn will use the North Yorkshire-based AI startup Gaist to review almost 150 million high definition images of the UK’s roads. With machine learning software, these images will be analysed to provide local councils with an assessment of where road markings could be improved or even added.

“We are using over 146 million HD road images from our national databank and cutting-edge AI technology to assess over 96,000 miles of classified roads as part of this project,” said Paula Claytonsmith, managing director at Gaist.

“This is the largest exercise in assessing road marking readiness ever undertaken in England. Gaist is proud to have the AI capability that puts an SMB UK business at the forefront of technological advances.”

Worn out and poor road markings can make it difficult for road users to distinguish whether it’s safe to overtake, or where they can park, or even determining how wide a lane is. This is a big safety risk, according to the DfT, which said these issues can be rectified by having a stronger road map of where markings need improvement.

Together with this announcement, the DfT will welcome bids for the £348 million investment to improve local roads. The money will be split into two areas, first, £200 million will be available over the next two years for work to strengthening and repair road damage, such as potholes. The remaining £150 million will go to projects designed to tackle traffic “pinch points”. These are elements of road design which narrows carriageways to slow and calm traffic near areas with lots of pedestrians.

Last year, road traffic injuries were the leading cause of death among children aged 4 and 14 and young adults aged between 15 and 29, according to the World Health Organisation. There are a number of companies looking to solve this issue with AI-based technology, such as Predina, a firm selected in the Google for Startups incubator, which maps out real-time hotspots to predict areas most at risk of collisions.

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