Conservatives Call For Night Time Traffic Light Switch-Off

By BethPH Last edited 45 months ago
Conservatives Call For Night Time Traffic Light Switch-Off

traffic light treeIn one of the more unusual transport proposals we've seen for London, the GLA Conservatives have proposed switching off traffic lights at night in a bid to save £40m by 2020.

The idea has been mooted in the 'Green Light' report written by Conservative transport spokesman Richard Tracey. Local authorities and TfL are urged to switch off some of London’s 6,000 traffic lights between midnight and 6am.

The idea behind Tracey's switch-off is that each light costs around £6,600 to maintain, and the figures on how money will be saved stack up something like this:

Using the volume of traffic during a 6 hour period, between 12-6am, the estimated average reduction of delays by turning off the traffic signals would be 53 minutes a day per junction. The average saving if applied to the 2,532 relevant junctions (which is the number of signals excluding pelican and toucan crossings) would equate to 2,251 hours saved a day. The average off-peak value of time per vehicle according to the DfT is £13.41 an hour, this means these hours saved would equate to £30k a day across London in saved time, and would equal £11m in savings a year.

So there you go. Obviously, there's a need to review the capital's traffic lights on a reasonably regular basis and remove any which are no longer useful. Vehicles idling pointlessly at traffic lights isn't great for London's pollution levels. But can you ever switch them off for six hours, even if you provide 'explanatory signage'? Green Party AM Darren Johnson commented on the report:

“We need to make our roads safer for cyclists and pedestrians to use, rather than turning them into dangerous freeways at night. London is a 24 hour city and the safety of people moving around on foot, or by bike, does not end when it gets dark.”

The report says that the right of way would be enforced on junctions, so if two cars entered at the same time, the one on the right has priority (the same as on a roundabout). Which sounds perfectly reasonable, though visibility tends to be better at roundabouts and traffic only comes from one direction. Pedestrians would have priority over vehicles.

It's not unheard or (or totally nuts) for local authorities to look to night time cost savings — some outside London already switch off street lighting between midnight and 5am. So a proposal extending that to traffic lights isn't that much of a surprise. The bigger surprise would be if the Conservatives' switch-off ever got the green light.

Photo by Richard Watkins in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Last Updated 30 October 2014

Andy Brice

Why would The Green Party, of all people, oppose this? It doesn't sound like Darren Johnson's thought it through. People travel much slower through junctions with no signals. They already do this in France and various other countries.


Sure go ahead at the expense of having filled A&E wards, this is when most boys racers and red light jumpers are active. With no traffic lights to control them you will soon have a bill in excess of the savings you hope to make and yes you could benefit from imposing a levy on funeral undertakers.


Having traffic lights not in full use at quiet times is common in other countries . Some use flashing yellow to indicate "proceed with caution", some use flashing red for the side roads and to indicate "proceed with caution and give way". Its a good idea for London at many but not all junctions.

John J

"Pedestrians would have priority over vehicles."

Fine in theory. No chance in practice. There's no way cars flying up Archway Road (or other main routes) at 30mph+ are going to stop at a set of switched-off lights just to let someone cross the road.

Under this proposal, I'd put money on collisions involving pedestrians going up. But hey, it makes life easier for cars. So that's all fine, right?

Peter Bailey

They should turn off the street lights too. Pesky street lights, wasting energy on safety.

John Law

The calculation for how money is "saved" by this is complete fantasy unless the GLA are paying people by the minute to drive through London. Which they're not. Any potential energy bill saving would be offset by reprogramming all the lights and putting up signs. Why would the maintenance of lights be a significantly less if they were off for a bit at night? Why are we paying clowns to write papers like this, there you go, lose some dead wood, what 54k a year (yeah, I'm not joking, look it up) bet there are plenty more, sorted.