Ambulance crews ‘impeded’ by low-traffic schemes

An ambulance impeded by a bollard at the entrance to the Fox Lane LTN in Palmers Green
An ambulance impeded by a bollard at the entrance to the Fox Lane LTN in Palmers Green (credit @stopenfieldltns)

Report by Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Traffic-management schemes and other road changes that could delay life-saving treatments are being monitored, according to London Ambulance Service (LAS).

LAS confirmed it was working with traffic teams across the capital to avoid using physical barriers such as bollards on schemes designed to manage the flow of vehicles. It comes after a series of social media posts showed ambulance crews’ access to streets newly blocked by bollards in Palmers Green.

Enfield Council installed a low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in roads between Fox Lane and Aldermans Hill earlier in the autumn, following a consultation held last year. One video posted on Twitter showed a paramedic struggling to remove a bollard in Grovelands Road.

Martyn Rowe, who lives in Lakeside Road, said he had witnessed three incidents in which ambulances had their paths blocked by barriers installed within the LTN. He said in one incident in October an ambulance with flashing lights reached a barrier at the northern end of Lakeside Road and had to turn around to find an alternative route.

LTNs are designed to block rat-running motor traffic from using residential roads as shortcuts, while allowing cyclists to still use them. Automatic number-plate recognition cameras, which can allow access for emergency services but fine drivers who pass through, are an alternative to using physical barriers to close roads.

An LAS spokesperson said: “As the busiest ambulance service in the country, our focus is on achieving the best outcomes for ill and injured patients and ensuring we reach them in response times set by the government.

“Changes to road layouts, traffic management schemes, and road closures all have the potential to impede our response to the most critically ill people and could delay life-saving treatments or conveyance to the nearest emergency department.

“This is why we continue to work with Transport for London (TfL) and local authorities, including Enfield [Council], to ensure emergency vehicle access is properly considered and the impact of any changes monitored.

“We will continue to discuss these issues at the emergency services group, made up of local authority traffic teams and TfL, as well as make representations at a local level where necessary.”

An Enfield Council spokesperson said the emergency services had raised early concerns about access to LTNs, which led to the use of camera-enforced closures to allow them to access key routes, but they had not objected to the final schemes.

The spokesperson added: “While the Fox Lane scheme has a number of agreed emergency services access points, over the past few weeks residents have expressed concerns to us that the London Ambulance Service should have further access.

“In response to the feedback from residents and to alleviate concerns, Enfield Council has had further discussions with the London Ambulance Service.

“Enfield Council has offered to add a further access point at Conway Road, which has been agreed with the London Ambulance Service. Council officers are now working to replace the existing bollard with a camera-enforced filter point, which will enable the emergency services to pass through unhindered.”