HL Deb 22 May 1991 vol 529 cc233-4

2.45 p.m.

Lord Auckland asked Her Majesty's Government:

How they plan to improve safety standards for blind, deaf and other handicapped persons when crossing main roads in major cities; and whether they intend to ensure more standardisation of traffic lights.

The Minister of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, the Department of Transport has issued advice to local authorities on dropped kerbs and the use of a tactile surface at controlled crossings. The department will shortly be issuing further advice on the use of these surfaces at uncontrolled crossings. Signals have been developed to assist blind and deaf/blind persons. Three new traffic advisory unit leaflets will be published to encourage their use. New methods of improving pedestrian safety at crossings are being developed. Standardisation of traffic lights is achieved through the requirements of the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 1981 and a type approval process.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that extremely helpful Answer. Is he aware that I am a patron of the Greater London Fund for the Blind, which will be extremely pleased to hear what he has said? Is he also aware that it is not only in the cities that there are problems with crossing at traffic lights but in country towns and villages? In the part of Surrey near Leatherhead where my wife and I live, there is the Royal School for the Blind and several other places for physically and mentally handicapped persons. Will my noble friend accept that what he has said will be of great comfort to such people?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for those words. At the moment we have two new provisions coming forward which will be of great benefit to the blind and others who have difficulty in crossing the road. The pelican crossings will soon be fitted with the new infra-red device. That will mean that pedestrians will get as long a crossing time as is necessary. There will also be a new audible signal for dual carriageway crossings.

Lord Renton

My Lords, will my noble friend ensure in further consideration of this matter that the department will keep in touch with the Greater London Association for Disabled People, which produced a report on the difficulties that handicapped people have in the metropolis and which has many valuable suggestions to make?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I know that the department consults widely on these matters with the groups concerned with the disabled and blind. I shall ensure that the organisation referred to by my noble friend is among them.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that it is not only the physically handicapped who have difficulty in crossing the road but those who are more able and active? If they have difficulty, how much more difficult must it be for the handicapped? Is the noble Lord aware that the little green man who flashes, now flashes for an ever shorter time? Is he also aware that it is very difficult even for active people to get across in time such roads as the Strand and outside Buckingham Palace? Will he look into the matter?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I can do better than that. The new system will come into action fairly shortly. I refer to the infra-red system which I described, which will give as much time as is needed. The system will be able to detect when a person is on the crossing and it will therefore give as much time as is necessary.

Lord Clinton-Davis

My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Opposition welcome what he has said in response to this very helpful Question put down by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland? In the consultation process in which the Minister has been engaged, has he taken into account the highway authorities, including the local authorities, and whether once the new regime is agreed it will be given suitable publicity? Publicity is the key to success in this matter.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, certainly. We work very closely with the highway and local authorities in these matters. They are the people who will be initially in receipt of our new advisory leaflets. For the most part, they will be the people who have to install the new devices. I shall endeavour to make sure that good publicity is given to the matter.

Baroness Faithfull

My Lords, will the new regime allow for traffic lights at the top of Constitution Hill on to Hyde Park Corner? Most of us dread going to Hyde Park Corner, including, I understand, taxi-cab drivers.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I cannot comment on individual traffic lights in London.