Birmingham's transport chief has demanded powers to enforce the laws of the road amid fears that the city is being shut down too often by major crashes.
Inconsiderate drivers performing illegal manoeuvres are leading to traffic mayhem, according to officials.
Coun Tahir Ali is calling for the city council to be given new powers to tackle moving traffic offences – such as motorists disobeying no-right turn or U-turn signs – following a string of catastrophic accidents at major junctions.
He believes that Birmingham, as well as other major cities, should be allowed to put cameras at major junctions and issue fines to motorists who break rules and cause problems for other road users.
In the capital, Transport for London has the authority to enforce box junctions, ban U-turns and other moving traffic offences, but everywhere else in the UK it is the responsibility of the police.
But so far the Department for Transport has refused to extend powers to other councils.
The city has been hit by a string of major crashes recently – although none have been proven to be as a result of any illegal manoeuvres.
In each case, as well as causing injuries, the disruption was massive to businesses and drivers.
* September: A driver has a lucky escape when his car smashes into an internet cafe at a junction in Green Lane, Small Heath.
* September: Three people are taken to hospital after a Subaru Impreza is in collision with another car at a junction in Portland Road, Edgbaston.
* September: Roundabout between Hallam Street and Edward Road in Balsall Heath is named by residents as one of worst accident blackspots. Locals say there’s about one crash a week.
* August: Two buses crash head-on in Addison Road, Kings Heath – 13 people are treated by paramedics afterwards.
* August: Two men die after their Porsche Cayenne crashes into lamppost in Small Heath Highway.
* June: A major accident at the junction of Great Charles Street and Newhall Street junction in June leaves the city centre traffic grid locked for much of the day. Two vehicles collide, with one overturning in the crash.
At a time when the city’s roads are increasingly congested the council bosses believe that further enforcement of offences at junctions would help keep traffic moving.
Councillors have complained that motorists attempting illegal right turns and even U-turns at Great Charles Street have caused a number of accidents and blocked roads at busy times.
The blocking of box junctions also presents major safety problems for cyclists at a time when the city is promoting and investing in cycling as an alternative to the car.
Coun Ali said: “The council is ready and willing to take on enforcement of these offences. Every time an inconsiderate driver, looking for a short cut, blocks a junction or cuts across traffic it adds to congestion. If there is a crash parts of the city are gridlocked as we saw at Great Charles Street recently.
“The police have enough to do already, we can help them.
“If these powers are good enough for Transport for London, why shouldn’t other major cities have them. London may be bigger, but we all have issues with heavy traffic.”
Councillors have repeatedly raised the issue after a series of prangs, shunts and even major crashes at Great Charles Streets has left them stuck in queues. Traffic is already stacked up here at peak times due to the ongoing roadworks at Paradise Circus.
In June council leader Sir Albert Bore promised to investigate whether the council is able to install safety cameras at the junction.
But the council has now received an answer from Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin turning down the request.
Mr McLoughlin said: “I am aware of the arguments put forward by the Local Government Association and individual local authorities for granting local highways authorities further powers under the Traffic Management Act 2004.
“I appreciate this is a matter of concern to you. However having considered this matter, I remain of the view that the police already have the necessary powers to take action where it is needed.
“While I know you will be disappointed with this reply. I can confirm we have no current plans to give local authorities greater powers to enforce moving traffic contraventions.”
The only moving traffic violations councils can enforce is bus lane encroachment. In 2013 Birmingham council came under fire for its handling of bus lane enforcement in the city centre but, having claimed that lessons have been learned, is due to step up its enforcement by installing cameras throughout the city’s wider bus lane network.
Local authorities last year called for powers to enforce cycle lanes, as well as illegal U-turns and box junctions offences.
The Local Government Association claimed that police did not have the resources to enforce them. It has suggested that if given new powers it would first issue warning letters and then fixed penalty notices for infringement.
Speaking last year councillor Mike Haines, of the LGA’s Economy and Transport Board, said: “Very little is currently being done to stop the minority of inconsiderate and dangerous drivers who block cycle lanes and bus lanes, pull up in cycle boxes at traffic lights and clog box junctions. Not only do these needless infringements cause frustration to responsible motorists, they can also put cyclists at risk by forcing them into busy traffic.
“If the Government is serious about championing cyclists, then it must hand councils outside London greater powers to tackle moving traffic violations. Granting councils the power to tackle impatient drivers who break the law and put cyclists at risk in an effort to shave seconds off their journey would undoubtedly also help ease congestion, reduce pollution and make roads safer for everyone."