Despite this about-turn, the Department for Transport (DfT) is stressing that speed cameras do save lives.
The main thrust of a speech by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling was that camera schemes will no longer be funded by money from speeding fines.
That system will be replaced by a central fund for road safety of £110 million a year, exceeding – the DfT says – the £93 million spent by safety camera partnerships.
Darling also promised better signage of cameras and said local authorities would review speed limits on their A and B roads by 2011.
In his speech, Darling pointed to a new independent report, prepared by PA Consulting and University College London, which examined 4,000 camera sites in 38 areas over four years.
Darling said: ‘The report is clear proof that safety cameras save lives. There are hundreds of people alive today who would otherwise be dead. All the academics involved in this independent report agree that all the cameras are delivering substantial reductions in accidents and casualties.
‘But I want cameras to be linked more closely to wider road safety. That is why I’m increasing the amount of money available for spending on road safety, giving them a new fund of £110 million. In some places, cameras will still be the solution and can be funded through this money. In other places, there will be alternative solutions which this funding can cover.’
Road safety organisations have broadly welcomed the move. Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: ‘The new funding arrangements will allow a far wider range of road safety measures to be used, helping to ensure the best possible remedy for individual trouble spots. This should bring positive benefits for road safety.’
But AA Motoring Trust head of road safety Andrew Howard said it would watch closely to make sure the £100 million funding available to local authorities would be additional to their road safety budgets.
And Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘While speed cameras have their place, they should not be the first resort for road safety. Road and junction layout, clearer signing of limits and better driver education all have a role to play.’