The Five Lamps fiasco in Derby and a junction off the M5 motorway - further examples of where installation of traffic signals has made road conditions worse. Initial comments relate to the Derby junction.

"There was congestion at the rush hours, as you would expect,
but for about 22 hours of the day, you could drive freely. Not any more".

"I have received hundreds of complaints" - local councillor.

The Five Lamps junction is located in an historic residential area of Derby.
It takes its name from an old lamp standard from which hang five globes
(seen more clearly against the sky in the second picture).

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View looking south down Duffield Road with Belper Road on the left

  fivelamps2.jpg (69248 bytes)

The old 'Five lamps' are silhouetted against the sky.
About ten sets of traffic signals can also be seen in this view taken from Belper Rd.

The junction is a complex meeting place of five or six roads (depending on how many you consider feed directly into the main junction) and leaving the traffic to 'sort itself out' rather than imposing complex signal control may have been the preferred option.

In December 2002 traffic lights were installed at the Five Lamps junction. There followed three months of protests by both drivers and residents - summarised in an article in the Derby Evening Telegraph of 15 March 2003. Extracts are reproduced below.


Transport officials hope to end three months of misery for motorists by carrying out alterations to the controversial Five Lamps traffic lights scheme. Derby City Council's traffic engineers have recommended that 10,000 of improvements should be made to the junction.

These include a 3,000 "MOVA" (microprocessor optimised vehicle actuation) system, which uses sensors in the road to detect how long traffic queues are and to alter the timing of traffic lights accordingly.

The proposals follow widespread public criticism of the council by motorists who claim the 315,000 project has increased congestion since the lights were switched on in December.

It is the latest example of the council spending cash to rectify so-called road improvement schemes. It is already spending 76,000 on tearing up unpopular speed humps in Sinfin and Boulton.

The council's head of traffic, David Gartside, said: "This is fine-tuning, really. We think the MOVA system will help traffic run more smoothly."

But Alan Whitelaw (50), who lives in Duffield Road, said traffic queues now lined up outside his house all day long since the lights were introduced.

He said: "I think it needs to go back to the way it was before.

"You see money being spent on a scheme which clearly doesn't work, then you're told that the council tax is going up - it does make people very angry.

"These proposed alterations won't make the situation any better at all."

The proposals follow a motion put forward by Allestree councillor Philip Hickson and passed at last month's council meeting.

Mr Hickson said: "The Five Lamps lights have been the issue of the year for people in my ward. I have received hundreds of complaints.

"These measures will do nothing to alleviate the traffic chaos the lights have caused for people coming in and out of the city."

Abridged letter from the Derby Evening Telegraph, 15 January 2003.

"Just about everyone I know predicted the chaos that has resulted from the traffic lights at the Five Lamps junction. When the traffic lights are in operation there is always a period when all lights are red, stopping traffic movement altogether. Do town planners ever model their crazy ideas? Recent modifications to Derby's traffic systems have made the various problems even worse. We have had a change in the city centre, which has created chaos on the inner ring road. Additional traffic lights on the Pentagon roundabout have created tailbacks to the Wyvern centre at times when previously there had been none. I am amazed at the practice of stopping traffic whilst on a roundabout when access to the roundabout is already controlled. Surely, the priority should be to get the traffic off the roundabout - not create gridlock? Gridlock was the result on the Cockpit fiasco a couple of years ago for this very reason.

The changes at Five Lamps have not solved problems; they have just moved them elsewhere.......Highway planners are now doing a further study of the Five Lamps traffic, but they are not expected to recommend switching off the lights. Well, they wouldn't, would they? Someone should be held accountable for these fiascos that result in a waste of taxpayers' money.

The following letter from the author of this website was published in the Derby Evening Telegraph on 28 May 2003. It produced responses from both car drivers and residents.

I was interested to see that your recent report on road humps included an estimate of 500,000 for installation and removal. I have published a website devoted in part to examples of local government incompetence, including from my own village in Devon. The data from Derby are especially useful because the large number of humps allows an accurate estimate of unit cost.

Photographs of Derby's humps will be included when the website is updated in June. It took only a few minutes standing at the end of Holbrook Road to record vehicles being driven down the middle of the road in both directions over the narrower of the three humps. As shown on the website, similar problems occur in Cirencester but for slightly different reasons. Has anyone locally had a 'near-miss' when confronted by a vehicle that had, in effect, been encouraged not to keep to its own side of the road? It would be useful if your readers could send me any stories about their humps - good or bad.

Also, I am interested in obtaining views of residents who live close to the Five Lamps traffic signals. Some drivers may find them an advantage in peak times but for the rest of the day they would seem to cause delays for motorists as well as increased noise and pollution in the neighbourhood.

The website is The webpages dealing with road humps and traffic signals are in the "government incompetence" section.

Any letters or emails would be appreciated.

Dr S J Wozniak

One of several responses from drivers and residents in Derby.

I was interested to see your letter in today's Derby Evening Telegraph.

Although I don't live in Derby City (for which much thanks) I am a regular off-peak user of the Five Lamps road, by car as I live in the country. There was congestion at that spot, at the rush hours, as you would expect as it is the main road into Derby from the West of the city, and much of the rural hinterland. But for about 22 hours of the day, you could drive freely. Not any more.

Now you queue at any hour of the day or night, pumping fumes into the air, while looking at an empty road ahead because there is no traffic from the other directions. Derby must be the only city to have created a traffic jam to leave the city at 2.30 in the afternoon! What a waste of money!

One sensible person enquired why the council had not experimented with temporary bollards before they spent huge sums of money narrowing - but not blocking - the rat run through Belper Road and temporary traffic lights before they installed 3 sets, whilst still leaving in operation 3 pelican crossings, the timings of which are not synchronised and are a few yards away from the green men signal on all the new lights. Presumably these were originally installed for the Children's Hospital (long since moved out of town) and sheltered accommodation (long since university residences) but neither change has reached the council yet, presumably.

I can only think that, if Derby has a Chief Traffic Engineer, which is debatable, he must live on the other side of the city. And whose money is all this? I think people don't realise that the Council's money is THEIR money!

Good luck with the campaign.

A more extensive summary appeared on the 'Derby Gripes' website (Click on 'previous articles' then on 'five lamps'). Derby City Council was further criticised at the time on another local website.

An article in the Sunday Telegraph of 8 June 2003 highlighted recent scientific research work that could be relevant to traffic flow problems.

On the M5 motorway, junction 14 leads to the B4509 and the picturesque little town of Wotton under Edge.

Briefly, the junction operated without problems until multiple sets of traffic signals were installed. Most of the time it is a lightly used junction from the motorway, in either direction. When the traffic signals were installed queues built up at peak times and these extended down onto the motorway slip roads, potentially becoming a danger. The Police were concerned - so the lights were switched off at peak times, allowing traffic to flow freely once more. At non-peak times when the traffic signals are not needed, they are switched back on to save face for the local council who cannot bring themselves to admit that their scheme was and remains a monumental waste of money.

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