Mobile speed cameras are being used as a money making tool rather than to improve road safety, politicians have claimed.
Coun Glen Sanderson, deputy leader of the Conservative group on Northumberland County Council, and Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the party’s parliamentary candidate for the Berwick seat, spoke out after releasing information which showed mobile cameras had not been used on one of the county’s worst roads in a six-month period.
Their concerns were heightened by the fact cameras had been employed 18 times this year on a quieter road out of a town centre with a “very small accident rate,” none of which they claimed appeared speed-related.
The body responsible for speed cameras in the region last night said there are strict criteria as to where they can be used.
Coun Sanderson, member for Longhorsley, tabled a question to a meeting of the county council earlier this year which asked how many times mobile speed cameras had been deployed on the A697 through the county in the six months up to June 1.
The councillor said last night: “I was simply amazed to be told that, despite a very bad safety record, this road had not received any coverage whatsoever over the six months.
“Yet the site outside Morpeth known as Pottery Bank has been visited by the mobile speed camera vans 18 times this year generating over 2,300 offences, despite there being a very small accident record – none of which it seems appear speed-related.”
In the last five years there have been five fatal, 30 serious and 110 slight accidents on the stretch of the A697 from North of Morpeth to the Scottish border.
The councillor added: “This compares to six, one serious and five slight over the same period at Pottery Bank.
“While one dangerous road appears to be ignored, another with a much lower accident rate is being targeted.
“The A697 has seen a large increase in traffic over recent years – probably because of the poor state of the A1.
“It is an important road and one that appears to be ignored whilst, to the cynic, it would seem easy pickings lie elsewhere.
“The van usually parks up towards the end of the speed limit area outside Morpeth in a disused garage site where there have apparently been no speed related accidents at all.”
Cameras are employed by the Northumbria Safer Roads Initiative, a partnership of Northumbria Police and six councils including Northumberland.
Mrs Trevelyan added: “This situation is not acceptable. I am very concerned by the rising levels of serious accidents on the A697 due to traffic self-diverting away from the unpredictable A1, which we are campaigning to get dualled.
“The Labour/Independent administration on the council seem quite happy to contribute over £120,000 each year to the initiative without monitoring the lack of focus on safety management.
“Northumbrians and visitors using the A697 deserve a better deal from our local council in promoting safer roads.”
Nick Clennett, chairman of the initiative, said: “Each local authority is responsible for liaising with Northumbria Police to identify sites where traffic enforcement is required.
“However, cameras cannot simply be placed anywhere. There are strict criteria governing the siting of speed cameras and this ensures that they can only be placed at locations where there is a proven accident or offending history.
“Local councils and Northumbria Police are required to examine detailed accident and traffic flow data for each site and only if it exceeds certain specified levels can a camera be deployed.”