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Traffic Management Act 2004

Part 1: Traffic Officers.Background

18.The Government has charged the Highways Agency with developing its role as strategic road network operator. In pursuance of this the Agency has undertaken, in partnership with the Association of Chief Police Officers, a review of the roles and responsibilities of both the police and the Highways Agency for traffic management on the network. The review concluded that responsibility for a number of tasks associated with traffic management should transfer from the police to the Highways Agency. It recommended that the Highways Agency assume a greater traffic management role and establish:-

  • Traffic Officers: On-road officers who would have the powers to stop and direct traffic, and whose main role would be to support road users and keep traffic flowing by implementing traffic management measures.

  • Regional Control Centres: Control offices around the network, to be staffed by both the Highways Agency and police, which would monitor and manage traffic on the network and direct on-road resources.

19.On 20th June 2003 the Secretary of State for Transport made a statement to the House of Commons setting out his policy for future management of the network. The statement indicted that the Government endorsed the review and that the Agency would be working with the police and others to implement its recommendations.

20.The Secretary of State has the legal power to establish and operate regional control centres, but primary legislation is required in order to establish traffic officers with traffic management powers.

Sections 1 & 2: Designation of traffic officers

21.These sections empower the Secretary of State (in England) and the National Assembly for Wales (in Wales), to designate individuals to act as traffic officers or to authorise another to do so. Traffic officers would thus either be employed directly by the appropriate national authority or they would be employed by external service providers. During the early years of operating a traffic officer service in England it is expected that all traffic officers will be designated by the Secretary of State and will be employees of the Highways Agency. In the longer term there is the option to employ contractors to provide the traffic officers.

22.Traffic officers’ duties must be related to the management of traffic on roads for which the appropriate national authority is the traffic authority, or the performance of any of the authorities’ other functions as highway or traffic authority for trunk roads. Thus for example, in addition to traffic management, they would be able to carry out incidental or supportive tasks such as monitoring the condition of the road and reporting on any defects or problems.

Section 3: Jurisdiction of traffic officers

23.Section 3 defines the roads over which traffic officers will be able to exercise their special powers (see section 5 and the notes on that section). These are likely to be all roads for which the national authority is the traffic authority within the relevant national boundary. However, the section provides that their jurisdiction may be limited to specific roads. This might be used where traffic officers are designated by service providers who have a contract to provide a traffic service for a specific area.

Section 4: Powers to direct traffic officers

24.Traffic officers would be directed by or on behalf of the appropriate national authority. However, to prevent any potential conflict between their role on the ground and that of the police in dealing with traffic accidents or incidents this section empowers the police to exercise primacy. In practice, this means that the police may opt to deal with incidents themselves, with or without traffic officer support, or allow traffic officers to act without police involvement. This section also provides that where traffic officers are contracted out, the appropriate national authority may still give them direct instructions.

Section 5: The special powers of a traffic officer

25.Section 5 sets out restrictions and limitations on the exercise of traffic officers’ constabulary-type powers, referred to as “special powers”. Those special powers are the power to stop and direct traffic, power to place temporary traffic signs, and any other constabulary-type power which they may be given by legislation.

26.These powers may only be used to assist traffic movement, avoid danger to persons or traffic or prevent damage to the road or anything on or near the road or for incidental purposes.

27.Traffic officers would be able to use their special powers on roads within their jurisdiction. They would also be able to use their special powers on any other roads in England and Wales provided they were acting under the direction of the police for the area in which the road is situated or with the consent of the traffic authority for the road.

28.In practice, this means, for example, that although traffic officers’ jurisdiction is to be on the national authority’s roads, where an accident on such a road results in significant impact on traffic elsewhere, or where advance warnings need to be in place quickly on approach roads to warn traffic of problems on the national authority’s road, traffic officers might be asked to operate temporarily on a local road at the direction of the police, or with agreement of the local highway authority. It is anticipated that operating protocols will be agreed in advance with the local highway authorities and police. A similar approach applies at the border between England and Wales.

Section 6: Powers to stop or direct traffic

29.Section 6 provides for traffic officers to have similar powers to those held by the police under the Road Traffic Act 1988 (“RTA”) to require vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians to stop and to require vehicles and cyclists to proceed in a particular direction.

30.The section 35 RTA offences (failure of drivers or cyclists to stop or proceed as directed) carry a maximum fine of level 3 on the standard scale (£1,000) and in certain cases endorsement and possibly disqualification. The offences are also fixed penalty offences carrying fines of up to £60.

31.The section 37 RTA offence (failure of pedestrians to stop when directed) carries a maximum fine of level 3 on the standard scale (£1,000).

32.The section 163 RTA offence (failure of drivers or cyclists to stop when directed) carries a maximum fine of level 3 on the standard scale (£1,000). The offence is also a fixed penalty offence carrying a fine of £30.

Section 7: Powers to place temporary traffic signs

33.Section 7 provides for traffic officers to have a similar power to a police constable to place and maintain traffic signs on the highway. The signs may be used to indicate prohibitions, restrictions or requirements relating to traffic to deal with congestion or obstruction of traffic or danger to or from traffic. Such signage may be placed for a period of up to seven days.

34.The effect of subsection (2) is that section 36 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 applies to any traffic signs so placed by traffic officers. Section 36 makes it an offence not to comply with traffic signs to which it applies.

35.Breach of section 36 carries a maximum fine of level 3 on the standard scale (£1,000). In addition, for breach of certain signs (e.g. stop signs) endorsement is obligatory and disqualification is discretionary. Breach is also a fixed penalty offence with fines of up to £60.

Section 8: Power to confer further special powers on traffic officers

36.Section 8 makes provision for the appropriate national authority to confer further “special powers” on traffic officers by order made by statutory instrument.

37.The Act imposes limitations on both the extent of the powers which may be conferred as well as the purposes for which they may be exercised. Firstly, subsection (2) requires the national authority to be satisfied that any such special power would be necessary to facilitate the performance of any duties which may be assigned to traffic officers. The duties which may be assigned to traffic officers are defined by section 1.

38.Secondly, the exercise of special powers is subject to the restrictions set out in section 5. Subsection (3) of that section provides that special powers may only be exercised for one or more of the purposes specified there.

39.Subsection (3)(b) provides that an order may contain supplemental, incidental transitional or consequential provisions including provision amending existing legislation. The possible use for this power can be seen in the existing special powers granted to traffic officers by sections 6 and 7 of the Act and the associated repeals (see section 98 and Part 2 of Schedule 12). The approach adopted for conferring these special powers is to extend to traffic officers the existing statutory powers granted to police officers. This approach requires amendment of or reference to relevant statutes. It is likely that any further special powers would be similarly granted by way of adoption of existing statutory provisions, or by way of addition to existing road traffic legislation necessitating alteration of related provisions. The wording used in subsection (3)(b) would enable this.

40.The Secretary of State may not make such an instrument unless a draft has been approved by both Houses of Parliament. One made by the National Assembly in relation to Wales would be subject to the Assembly’s own procedures, in accordance with the Government of Wales Act 1998. These include a requirement for an affirmative vote of the Assembly in plenary session.

Section 9: Removal of certain vehicles by traffic officers

41.Section 9 modifies, in the case traffic officers, the Secretary of State's power under section 99 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 to make regulations providing for the removal of vehicles obstructing the highway, or abandoned or broken down or dangerously or illegally parked.

42.Where under section 99 the Secretary of State makes regulations empowering traffic officers to remove such vehicles section 9 will enable consequential provisions to be included. In particular this would enable provisions for the disposal of any such vehicles and for the recovery of the costs relating to their removal storage and disposal. Such provision would be likely to be by way of amendment to sections 100 to 102 of the 1984 Act. Subsection (2) would enable this.

43.Regulations made under section 99 of the 1984 Act are, by section 134(3) of that Act, subject to the negative resolution procedure.

 Section 10: Offences

44.Section 10 makes it an offence to assault, resist, wilfully obstruct, or impersonate a traffic officer or fail to give a name and address to a traffic officer when lawfully demanded (as to which see subsections (4)and (5)). The penalties for these offences vary with the offence and are set out in the section. This provides for penalties of fines not exceeding respectively level 5 (£5,000) or level 3 (£1,000) on the standard scale and also for imprisonment.

Section 11: Uniform

45.Section 11 provides for the uniform to be worn by traffic officers to be determined by the appropriate national authority. By virtue of subsection (6)of section 5 a traffic officer may not exercise his special powers on a road unless he is in uniform.

Section 13: Power to acquire land

46.Section 13 gives the appropriate national authority the power to acquire land, if necessary, for the traffic officer service or for other purposes connected with the management of traffic such as for the provision of traffic control centres. Such land may be bought by agreement or compulsorily.

Section 14: Financial assistance to authorised persons

47.Section 14 provides a power to provide financial assistance to authorised persons in respect of traffic officers designated by them.

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