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Conservative MP dismisses cyclist safety concerns over longer lorries on UK roads, claims it is “good for road safety”

The North West Durham MP visited a Greggs HQ to see the HGVs in action, as campaigners raise concerns that the move could cost lives of cyclists and pedestrians

Tory MP and road minister Richard Holden has defended the UK Government’s plan to allow longer lorries on UK roads and dismissed concerns raised by campaigners that it could increase the risk to pedestrians and cyclists.

Standing in front of a sausage-roll branded Greggs lorry at the bakery’s headquarters in Longbenton to see the bigger trailers in action, the MP for North West Durham insisted that they would be “good for productivity, good for the environment, good for road safety”, reported Chronicle Live.

On Wednesday, the Government announced new laws to permit longer semi-trailer combinations up to 18.55 metres (61 feet) on British roads – 2.05 metres longer than standard size by the end of this month. Active travel campaigners warned that the move, which had been under trial for the last 11 years, could cost lives of people on the roads.

> Longer lorries allowed on UK's roads by the Government: Will it make cycling and walking conditions worse?

However, Holden claimed out that the safety wrinkles have been ironed out following the extended trial. He said: “That is exactly the reason we had such a long trial – 11 years to really kick the tyres on the safety element of it.

“There are two elements to the safety – one is that over that 11-year period, because they are so long and because they require the guys who operate them to have more training, we have actually seen a 61 per cent reduction in the number of incidents involving these compared to standard HGVs.

“The second is that this is going to take up to one in 12 HGVs off the road – that is massively helpful in terms of safety on our road network. There will be fewer lorries on the road, no increase in the weight limit, and a slight increase in the length which is really helpful in terms of road safety.

“This has been front and centre in all of our thoughts while we have been doing this and is why we have had such a long trial. It is also why all the companies have been so supportive of it, because they have seen a positive impact on their safety record for their drivers on the ground.”

> Cycling UK criticises imminent Department for Transport plan for "longer and more hazardous lorries" on Britain's roads

Greggs lorry (image: Greggs)

In Wednesday’s announcement, Department for Transport said that the decision will “bring [a] £1.4 billion boost” to the economy by "supporting productivity and saving 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide”.

However, despite the figures claiming a 61 per cent decrease in personal injury incidents, DfT’s own data reveals that of 1,353 reported collisions involving a cyclist and an HGV driver in that period, 6.6 per cent resulted in a cyclist fatality, meaning that while the figure of 89 deaths is lower than the 301 cyclist fatalities involving a collision with the driver of a car (0.4 per cent), the percentage is far greater.

Besides, official figures show that HGVs accounted for only 3.4 per cent of traffic – but were involved in 15.5 per cent of cyclist and 11 per cent of pedestrian deaths.

Furthermore, with 454 of the aforementioned 1,353 collisions resulting in a cyclist suffering serious injuries, the percentage of reported collisions with an HGV being driven resulting in a cyclist fatality or serious injury was 40 per cent between 2016 and 2021, higher than the respective 24 per cent for collisions involving the driver of a car.

> Campaigners slam increase in extra-long 'deadly' HGVs

Cycling UK has raised fears that it “could cost lives of pedestrians and cyclists”, also pointing out: “At a time when funding for infrastructure to keep people cycling and walking safer has been cut, it's alarming that longer and more hazardous lorries could now be allowed to share the road with people cycling and walking.”

A spokesperson for the Newcastle Cycling Campaign said longer lorries “only increase the risk to people walking and cycling” and called on ministers to reverse recent cuts to active travel budgets.

The Campaign for Better Transport has also argued that the the Government should instead focus on moving more freight by train instead of on the roads. It said: “We did a lot of work exposing the dangers and misinformation around longer lorries, so we’re disappointed DfT is taking this retrograde step.”

Mr Holden said he wanted “as much freight on rail as possible”, but that road haulage was still required because of capacity constraints.

Greggs said that using longer lorries up the amount of pasties and sausage rolls that each vehicle can carry by 15 per cent. Gavin Kirk, supply chain director at Greggs, said that shifting 20 per cent of its trailer fleet to the Longer Semi-Trailers (LSTs) had reduced the baking giant’s mileage by 540,000km per year. He also added that its drivers have undertaken “additional training”.

Morrisons, Stobart, Royal Mail and Argos are also expected to use LSTs besides Greggs, having been some of the 300 companies to take part in the trial.

Adwitiya joined in 2023 as a news writer after completing his masters in journalism from Cardiff University. His dissertation focused on active travel, which soon threw him into the deep end of covering everything related to the two-wheeled tool, and now cycling is as big a part of his life as guitars and football. He also covers local and national politics for Voice Wales, and sometimes writes about science, tech and the environment. Living right next to the Taff trail in the Welsh capital, you can find him riding his bike on the scenic routes, fighting his urge to stop pedalling and click photographs (apparently not because he's bonking).

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