/ Travel & Leisure

Get your travel irritations on the Government’s action list

Cartoon of man, train and plane

The House of Commons Transport Committee wants to hear your travel concerns and how it can improve the roads, rail network and aviation industry. So what’s your top travel concern that you’d like addressed?

The Committee has agreed to consider any of the comments shared here as part of their review of things to address in 2014. The Government is obliged to respond to the Committee’s suggestion so your irritation could become the next innovation.

Now, the committee ‘only’ look at the work of the Department for Transport and associated organisations. I say ‘only’ because that’s still a big list – anything the Department itself, Network Rail, Highways Agency or Civil Aviation Authority work on.

In recent years the Committee has looked at subjects as diverse as the cost of motor insurance, modernisation of the Coastguard Service, sulphur emissions by ships, high speed rail, and aviation strategy.

From safety to travel savings

Last year, several of their enquiries were suggested by members of the public: transport in isolated communities; safety at level crossings; the consumer perspective on motoring agencies, particularly the DVLA; and the work of the British Transport Police.

We’ve some ideas ourselves that we’d like to put forward – particularly when it comes to transparency for train ticket prices and conditions of travel. And we’re also keen for the changes to terms and conditions to be more transparent so changes which could cause detriment to travellers don’t go unnoticed.

But we are also keen that the Committee hear directly from you. Some of our most popular Conversation debates have been transport themed – from speed limits, cameras, road tax, flights costs and cancellation rights. So what would you like the Committee to look into?


Smart traffic lights would be a welcome addition to the roads. How many times do you get to a junction and you’re the only vehicle there, and you wait and wait and wait. A smart traffic light could sense you’re the only vehicle there and change accordingly.
My local council replaced a roundabout with traffic lights presumably to ease rush hour, yet on Saturday or Sunday or late at night when there’s almost zero traffic from 2 of the 4 routes, one’s to a university sports field the other to a business park and hospital, you can still wait for ages whilst the lights go through a predefined cycle.

And as always, doing something about pot holes. Councils seem to have lost the plot on this one.

And FYI there’s no such thing as road tax any more it’s now Vehicle Excise Duty (VED)


I agree. I lived in Switzerland in the mid-1990s and the traffic lights turned to green automatically when you approached them. On the other hand, if you drove at over the speed limit, they would all turn red! Almost 20 years later, the UK still hasn’t caught up.

Also concerning traffic lights, we should have an automatic right to turn left on a red light while giving way to all other road users (unless signs indicate to the contrary). This right exists (for turning right) in the USA and parts of Eastern Europe.


I personally don’t think that it would wise to reinterpret a red light as “potentially proceed if it is safe” rather than “stop”. Arguably there are situations where a signal to this effect could be shown (but please not red), but these would not apply to all left turns, and might additionally apply to other exits. A separate light phase would be more helpful than lots of “this turn is/isn’t permitted in this situation” signs.

If the junction involves pedestrians crossing then allowing this would be extremely bad; for example the pedestrians might not yet have started to cross the road, but they see a green light for them to cross, but there would then be potential for collisions with vehicles. So not only would red not mean stop, but green also would longer mean go.

One also has to bear in mind visibility. Often there may be obstructions that prevent drivers from being able to see the whole of the left exit clearly enough to be able to determine whether it would be safe to proceed.

I believe it would be much better to fix problem junctions on an individual basis than applying your suggestion, and this could be through re-timing, smarter sensing, adding extra filter lanes etc.


We should also remember that an amber signal means STOP; the red light only means “don’t go”. I also am against a permissive left-turn at a junction where traffic is held at the signals. Just as visibility is sometimes impaired to the left by pedestrians and street furniture, visibility to the right is often blocked by vehicles in the parallel lane. A good technique employed at many junctions in the UK is the provision of full crossing control by means of pedestrian signalling, modern safety barriers with the vertical bars set at an angle to allow through vision [thus preventing young children from being obscured], and filter lights for the left-turning traffic. This is not suitable for all junctions, of course, so elsewhere drivers will just have to wait a few more seconds which is not too much to ask [all motorists are pedestrians sometimes but not all pedestrians are motorists; moreover, pedestrians don’t have accelerators so time spent in the rain is a pain]. It annoys me when I see banners and placards fastened to the pedestrian guard rails at road junctions by adjacent traders; perhaps they don’t understand the safety features incorporated in the barriers.


I am another one who is opposed to allowing vehicles to turn left when a red light is showing.

‘gg’ suggested that traffic lights should have a countdown timer to indicate the time remaining before the lights change. Modern traffic lights consist of a matrix of LEDs, so it would be easy to show times in seconds. I suspect it would just encourage motorists to speed up to beat the lights. 🙁
I wonder how well this works where the system has been tried.


During my travels on Saturday I saw a set of traffic lights with a countdown for the pedestrians. First time I’d seen that, my daughter said I see those quite alot .

And sorry if this is late to the party but what’s with traffic lights with grills over the green light Given the number of faulty lights I’ve come across in my driving life its not until I’m about 2 feet from them that I can tell their working. So not very useful.

And can highway planners at least be drivers, all too often when a new junction is added it takes about 6 weeks for the correct filters to be added giving the impression that its an after thought. Things like the main road has a filter for turning right yet the that road there’s no filter for turning left when there’s clearly going to be no traffic coming.


I believe that the grilles are intended to restrict the viewing angle, so that they cannot be seen as a green light except by those in the relevant queue of traffic. For example, grilles were installed at light controlled crossing soon after the traffic lights at a major junction near where I live. These grilles are sometimes set wrongly and cannot be suitable for both drivers of low sports cars and lorries with a high driving position.

I expect that a move to LEDs that provide a directional beam could be a better approach.


Traffic lights with filament lamps have very carefully designed lenses to give the directional beam specified. However, most traffic lights now are LEDs – they provide the colour without light-absorbing filters, and have long life and efficiency ; you can tell by how quickly the light is on and off – no decay. LEDs need lenses to concentrate their light intensity correctly – some are a part of the encapsulation, others are added to the front of the chip.


Stop HS2 – there is no need to travel at the speed this represents, and anyway, existing lines still have peak time capacity. Spend the money instead on existing railways, new links at reasonable (cheaper) speeds and integrate road and rail freight to relieve congestion on the roads. Oh, and release the report that contains honest opinions on HS2 that has been blocked by the transport minister – because it would give the public ammunition to show the flaws in the arguments.


Stop HS2 – there is no need to travel at the speed this represents” – I disagree with your reasoning. High speed trains are the norm in other Western European countries and the UK has fallen behind significantly. We need to get people off planes and on to the railways instead, and we can do this only if the overall journey time is comparable or better.


We are a fairly small country, with towns relatively close. Work out how long it takes you to travel to a station, wait for your train, and travel to your ultimate destination at the other end when you’ve spent 80 minutes getting to Birmingham. It reduces the value of ultra high speed. Do the same for intercity air travel – how long does it take you to get to the airport, through security, and again at the other end – having landed well out of town. It’s a vanity project resting on a myth. And look ahead 10 years – supposedly we will do much more from our offices rather than having to travel. For most people we need reliable affordable and fairly quick rail travel. They will not be able to afford HS2.


Improve clarity of rail ticket conditions, perhaps by including the key terms on the reverse side. E.g. “not valid to board any train before 0930”. Or, unless the customer requests otherwise, print an additional ‘coupon’ with those terms on together with every ticket sold.

Prevent selling of more expensive train tickets that are valid on exactly the same, or less, services (i.e. remove need to mess around with split tickets, or buying tickets beyond the destination and breaking the journey).

Make railcards available to all those on low incomes, not just young and senior persons.

Make trains more affordable.

Prevent train ticket barriers from stealing tickets at the end of a journey.

Improve train tickets so that they can actually be read by ticket barriers, even if stored in the same pocket as a cellphone for the duration of the journey.

Improve information available at rail stations and on trains, perhaps by providing free wifi for accessing at least National Rail, TOC websites, opentraintimes.com and realtimetrains.co.uk. ‘Free’ meaning without having to disclose one’s name/address/date of birth/mother’s maiden name/credit card number etc.

Add platform doors at stations (similar to those at some underground stations).

Declassify first class whenever passengers are forced to stand, or refund 90% of the fare for passengers forced to stand.

Increase luggage capacity on trains.

Force train operators to improve Delay Repay schemes so that all delays of 15 minutes within the rail industry’s control qualify for compensation, and such compensation should (optionally to the passenger) be payable electronically rather than in the form of rail vouchers that cannot be spent online or at ticket machines.

Force bus operators to implement reasonable Delay Repay schemes.

Make buses more affordable to students, without forcing them to buy a pass for a whole year/term.

Improve traffic lights (including pedestrian crossings) such that those which are on timers (rather than more reasonable mechanisms) are required to display a countdown of the number of seconds until the lights will change.

If pedestrian crossing “request” buttons are merely placebos, then always illuminate the “WAIT” light, without requiring the button to be manually pressed. Abandon use of the newer-style pedestrian crossing request buttons, which are much more difficult to press.

In places where pedestrians frequently cross the road, or walk alongside the carriageway, require consideration of the provision of crossing facilities and pavement respectively.

Improve pavements for users on wheelchairs and pedestrians with prams or trolleys by requiring dropped kerbs at every new junction.

Provide free/cheaper drinking water at airports once past security.

Improve online access to driving licence services without requiring a recent passport.


Support making compensation for delays usable online where the cheapest tickets are to be had.
Never been able to use any of my vouchers obtained for cancelled or delayed services.
Even more important with more ticket offices up for closure.