Delays Caused by Oxford LTNs Raise Concerns Over Emergency Response Times

Why 45 seconds is a delay

Oxford, June 11, 2023 – The impact of low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) filters on ambulance response times in East Oxford and Cowley has raised significant concerns, according to a recently released council report. The findings highlight the potential for delays of up to 45 seconds in reaching life-threatening emergencies in East Oxford, which, when considering the South Central Ambulance Service’s goal of reaching such cases within seven minutes, becomes a matter of grave concern.

While 45 seconds may appear negligible at first glance, the council’s own modeling indicates that LTNs can have a substantial impact on emergency service vehicles’ ability to reach destinations promptly. Despite assurances from the council about measures to minimize delays, reports from residents have indicated instances of ambulances having to unlock bollards, resulting in wasted time.

The introduction of LTN filters, aimed at reducing traffic in certain areas, has prompted concerns about the potential redirection of traffic onto main arterial roads leading into the city. This could create congestion issues that impede the progress of emergency vehicles, exacerbating response time delays.

Councillors have raised alarms regarding the impact of LTNs on emergency services, but they have been accused of disregarding concerns about air pollution. The displacement of traffic onto alternative routes has led to increased congestion, causing residents to refrain from opening windows due to pollution concerns. Additionally, concerns have been expressed about potential delays faced by fire engines.

The NHS, already burdened with backlogs from the COVID-19 pandemic, cannot afford additional costs. The report suggests that LTNs could cost the health service £650,000, further straining its resources.

Proposed changes, including the introduction of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras, have been put forward. However, critics argue that these measures may only create different challenges. It remains crucial to strike a balance between addressing traffic issues and ensuring unobstructed emergency response.

The ongoing trial of the east Oxford LTNs, introduced on an experimental basis in May 2022, has garnered feedback to evaluate its impact and guide future decision-making. The council is currently gathering views on proposed changes through a six-week consultation period. Simulation-based analysis of emergency services’ response time delays is being undertaken to inform the evaluation of the LTNs.

As the full analysis is expected to be completed over the summer, the council plans to make a final decision in October on whether the LTNs should become a permanent feature in East Oxford. The hope is that the proposed changes will lead to positive outcomes and greater reflection, addressing concerns related to emergency response times and balancing the needs of residents, businesses, and the health service.

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