Times Covers Delays to Emergency Services from LTNs

The Times newspaper covered the delays to fire services yesterday (29/3/2021) caused by the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).

They reported that slowed emergency responses caused by traffic calming have jumped by more than one third in London boroughs. The article suggested that frontline workers were concerned that management was ignoring the problem due to political pressure. The Times notes that one serving officer, who asked not to be named, said: “The bosses are controlled by Sadiq Khan and don’t want to upset him as he controls the budget”. Another quote supplied was “They don’t even want bollards with keys as it takes too long. When it comes to strokes or heart attacks, every second counts.”

See full article here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/3248bade-8ff6-11eb-930d-e9e6e3751f8f?shareToken=7e22feaa3656a60f5cfdf82e77775245

We covered the issue of emergency service delays in a note to our Lewisham campaign supporters which included the following evidence:

Many examples of delays to ambulances, police and fire service vehicles caused by road closures, road narrowing by cycle lanes and modal filters have been reported across London. The following letter from a paramedic was recently published in Private Eye.

Dead-end roads


I saw the cartoon (Rotten Boroughs, Eye 1538) depicting “low traffic neighbourhood” barriers in Ealing preventing ambulance crews from getting to jobs. These are now pan-London and in Lewisham and Crystal Palace have caused severe delays getting to cardiac arrest calls.

On a recent job we were literally at the end of a street adjoining the road the cardiac arrest was on. Due to the barricade we had to take an almost five-minute detour around the side streets before we found our way to the address. Five minutes probably doesn’t seem long to whoever came up with the idea of the barriers, but to a London Ambulance Service (LAS) crew trying to get to a cardiac arrest patient and give that first shock, it slashes our chances of a viable resuscitation. In this case the patient did not survive.

We’re not able to call attention to the issue because our internal problem-reporting software only allows us to report equipment or personnel failures within LAS; there is no way for us to quantify’ the number of fatal delays caused by the council’s arbitrary road closures and no structure in place for us to report this. With the huge spike in Covid-related cardiac arrest calls we’ve seen in the past few months, these barricades are literally killing patients. Private Eye is the first publication I’ve seen so much as mention it.

PARAMEDIC (name supplied), London.


Residents who live within LTNs may have quieter roads but they need to bear in mind that their lives will be threatened if they suffer a medical emergency.

The Daily Telegraph also reported on a Freedom of Information Act request handled by the Borough of Greenwich. It included some comments from the London Ambulance Service:

“The London Ambulance Service (LAS) cannot support any scheme that involves the closure of a road to traffic using static bollards, lockable bollards, coffin bollards, gates or physical barriers like planters. The main reason for this is our vehicles do not carry any form GERDA or FB keys to access these obstacles and delays can be detrimental to patient safety.

Existing schemes already create us problems and gates and bollards are not generally routinely maintained pan London and are difficult to unlock anyway.

The nearest available ambulance is dispatched to a 999 call so we do not profile emergency access routes like the LFB because any crew from across London can be dispatched if they are nearest and this might not be a local crew.

Any delay in response to an address behind closures could be detrimental to patient safety and cause serious harm, injury or even death to a patient due to the ambulance response being delayed.

Consideration also needs to be given to the wider health and social care providers who will need access to address and are on tight schedules. Patient transport ambulance picking patients up for chemotherapy or dialysis appointments, district and community healthcare teams and social care carers will all be delayed by having to navigated additional road closures and restrictions leading to delayed care, welfare issues, humanitarian concerns and potential for emergency admission as a result of delays. Addition missed clinical appointments has a detrimental effect on service delivery and patient flow through the NHS system. Consideration of exemptions for these staff through restrictions would also need to be given.

Although the LAS does support the need to ensure social distancing this cannot be at the detriment of patients calling 999, but currently the use of any kind of bollards/gate/planter to close road is not acceptable”.

Clearly the “modal filters” used in so many LTN schemes are not advisable such as those used in Lee Green. Such objections may be why Councils are now installing camera systems to close roads instead. But that just creates complaints about the number of PCNs generated through inadvertent mistakes.

It is very obvious that the supporters of LTN schemes are ignoring the clear evidence of the impact on emergency services.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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