LTN boundary road traffic increases understated by council due to ‘software issues’

Traffic on Fox Lane LTN boundary roads rose by 8% rather than 5.7% but still not enough to change council decision on scheme, report Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A traffic jam in Alderman's Hill, Palmers Green, on the edge of the Fox Lane LTN scheme
Traffic in Alderman’s Hill, Palmers Green, has increased by more than was originally stated by the council

Enfield Council has blamed software issues for undercounting slow-moving vehicles during a low-traffic neighbourhood (LTN) trial.

The council has admitted traffic moving below 6.2mph in congested roads had not been recorded following the introduction of the Fox Lane LTN because a software update had changed the setting of its traffic counters.

After re-running the data to account for the slow-moving vehicles, the council said it changed the result from a 5.7% rise in traffic on boundary roads to an 8% increase – but this “did not alter the original decision to make the project permanent”.

The Times reported last month that Metrocount, which manufactures the roadside traffic counters, said the council’s contractor appeared to have made “a deliberate choice to change the default setting, contrary to documentation that advises caution when surveying slow-moving or congested traffic”.

According to article, the company says the counters are “not designed to work” in stop-start traffic and are recommended to be used in “free-flowing conditions”.

LTNs were introduced by the council to tackle air pollution and stop drivers “rat-running” through residential streets. But the schemes have proved divisive, with opponents claiming they merely push traffic and pollution onto boundary roads. 

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A report published by the council in November stated that the undercounting issue “arose from an incorrect default setting applied to the contractor’s equipment when the baseline data was collected in 2019”.

The revised data taken to correct the error showed increases in 24-hour traffic flows on boundary roads ranging from 4% in Aldermans Hill to 15% in Southgate High Street.

Conservative councillor Maria Alexandrou, shadow cabinet member for climate change, says she believes the council would still have gone ahead with the LTN even if the increase was higher than 8% because it has an “anti-car agenda”.

“They [the council] do not want to discuss it anymore,” she added. “They say it is done.”

Figures obtained by Cllr Alexandrou reveal the council has raked in more than £4.6million from fines issued in camera-enforced roads in LTNs since the schemes were introduced.

A council spokesperson said: “Quieter neighbourhoods [LTNs] are about making our streets cleaner and quieter for our residents and encouraging people to find alternative ways to travel around the borough. Given this, a range of factors were considered when making the Fox Lane Quieter Neighbourhood permanent.

“Our contractor explained that software issues happened in 2019 – before the council started the project and further data was collected in 2021. This highlighted an 8% rise following implementation, which the council concluded did not alter the original decision to make the project permanent.

“The council, along with other local authorities across the UK, continues to use traffic count data, alongside other monitoring techniques, in order to build an overall picture of the impacts of particular projects.”

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