Have you ever travelled through London or the West Midlands and thought, "why are the double lines red instead of yellow?" These indicate that the road is a Red Route, a key arterial route within either of the urban areas.
The idea is very simple: to restrict or ban parking and stopping would free up vital road space that would otherwise be occupied by stationary traffic; in turn, this would allow traffic to flow more freely and reduce congestion. Therefore, more road space becomes available, thus removing the need to build new roads or widen existing ones.
The red lines are used to indicate where stopping - with the intention to park, load, unload or to board and alight from a vehicle - is prohibited. There are some areas where stopping is allowed, but only where there are designated boxed areas, and during the times shown on roadside signs.
In addition, the lack of parked vehicles means that roads become safer and accidents occur less frequently.
How the scheme emerged
Back in the 1980s, the government requested that a series of improvements were made to the London road network. However that plan involved large scale road building, and was subsequently scrapped following a high number of protests and campaigns against the proposals.
Instead, an idea was developed that allowed the existing network of roads be improved to allow for faster journey times and less congestion. By removing parked vehicles, lane space would be freed up. However, the protestors emerged again, worried that the lack of congestion would result in some motorists blatantly speeding, thus causing more accidents and increasing faster-moving levels of traffic.
To overcome this, extra bus lanes were installed, as well as speed cameras (despite the fact they should have only been installed in areas with poor safety records.
Another problem was the creation of parking spaces. As the red routes were designed to prohibit parking and only permit moving traffic on them, planners would have to find somewhere to put the parked vehicles. The idea would have been new car parks, but there was no space, unless buildings were demolished. Instead, the idea was changed so that on-street stopping was permitted, but only in designated areas and during specific, signed times only.
The first schemes to be introduced were on the A13 in East London, and on the A1 in North London (one of the roads planned for widening). Despite the ban on parking during the peak periods, shopkeepers on the A13 benefited from an increase in trade, as the parallel A11 retained its double yellow lines!
In recent years, the red routes have spread all over London, and have started to appear in the West Midlands. In many cases they have been unpopular due to the ban on parking, especially outside houses and shops. One group even went to court in an attempt to stop the introduction of a red route, but as the red routes were permitted through an Act of Parliament, the case was thrown out at the expense of some of the people involved. However, a survey in London during 1997 found that traffic flows were 10% quicker than three years earlier.
Where are they?
As mentioned above, Red Routes have become increasingly commonplace on roads in London and the West Midlands.
The London scheme was first to be introduced, in fact its been in place for over a decade. There are over 360 miles of Red Routes in the capital, and according to Transport for London, they carry some 35% of the city's traffic. By introducing the scheme, journey times on these roads have been reduced by an average of 20%, and illegal parking has dropped 75%.
The West Midlands (WM) scheme was first introduced in September 2003, when the A34 through Solihull became the first Red Route. The scheme is still being developed, and it is envisaged that some 260 miles of the West Midland road network will become Red Routes.
Red Route network map : Greater LondonPDF document (2.5 Mb)
Red Route network map : West MidlandsPDF document (3 Mb)
Identifying Red Routes
The most obvious way to identify a Red Route is by the markings on the side of the road, however signs are also in place to show what restriction is in place. There are three types of Red Route:
Double Red Line Routes
Stopping is not permitted at any time of the day
Single Red Line Routes
Stopping is not allowed between 7am and 7pm (although in the West Midlands, some local variations may apply)
Red Route Clearways
Stopping is only permitted in lay-bys. Generally there are no lines (except at junctions), but signs indicate that restrictions are in place.
Along some stretches of Red Routes, stopping is permitted. However, these are only in designated marked boxes.
Parking or loading is allowed along some stretches of Red Routes, in areas defined by marked boxes. Stopping is usually limited to specific conditions, either parking or loading/unloading, and time restrictions are in place - these are clearly identified on the accompanying signs.
There are two types of box:
Stopping for parking or loading (as signed) is allowed during the off peak period, usually between 10am and 4pm.
Stopping for parking or loading (as signed) is allowed all day.
|Double Red Lines|
|Single Red Lines|
|Red Route Clearways|
Local parking and loading variations will apply
Enforcement of illegal parking
Illegal parking on red routes are still enforced by police traffic wardens, unlike yellow lines where the councils are responsible. Also, red route parking fines are higher than normal fines, currently £100 in London, and there is no discount for paying within 14 days.
Blue Badge holders
Special restrictions apply to blue badge holders. In many places, special blue badge parking bays are provided on stretches of Red Route, where parking is permitted without time limits. Also, where signposted, blue badge holders can park in loading bays.
Stopping is permitted on red routes for the purpose of alighting or boarding only, but as long as the blue badge is displayed.