Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Who pays for bilingual road signs?

Bilingual road signNoticing an article in the Dunoon Observer about new bilingual road signs on the A83 (at a reported cost of £125,000) reminded me that we’d covered this just over a year ago (and a year prior to that too), noting that the subject was one which was associated with a degree of controversy.

It seems bilingual signs have been part of a rolling installation programme which began on Skye back in 2002, and a remarkable £680,000 has been spent (or allocated) on the task since 2008/9. Seems like a terrible waste of money in these days when councils are supposed to be tightening their belts, paying to tear up a perfectly good road sign which is already in place, and replace it with another one that defies the trend to simplify road signs and reduce visual clutter.

It would seem to be more important to address Nationalistic desires to increase the profile of Gaelic with these signs, rather than road safety, as there are concerns that bilingual sign take longer for drivers to read and understand, leading to more time with their eyes off the road, which could lead to an accident. Even the unions aren’t too keen on the signs, seeing the cost savings that could have been made by abandoning them as a way for councils to cut costs, without cutting jobs.

On a more positive note, now that the signs are all but rolled out, Transport Scotland will be able to monitor their effect in the coming years, and see if the there are any more, or any less, accidents and fatalities on the roads where bilingual signs have been installed to replace English only originals. Annual assessments will be carried out at these sites, in order to determine their effect, if any.

Other than the appalling waste of money – replacing serviceable and perfectly acceptable road signs – I don’t have an issue, and provided lives are not lost as a result of their introduction, suspect their presence might even be something of a tourist attraction, as some of them come to see the “Funny Scotch words on their odd little road signs”. After all, I do the same when I visit Wales.

Come to think of it, since Wales already has these signs, couldn’t someone in the council or Transport Scotland have looked at Welsh road safety records where bilingual signs are used, and made a decision based on that, years ago, rather than spending hundreds of thousands of pounds to install these signs, and then wait to see if they kill people?

I do wonder if we will ever see the result of the Transport Scotland assessment of the these signs in future, or if the issue will quietly be forgotten.

Clearly, by the time the assessment figures become available for review, if the news is bad, ripping out the bilingual signs and replacing them with English only versions will be a million pound exercise, and what council or authority would want to face that (further) bill? They’re already strapped for cash and being forced to economise – their ‘pot’ roads will not be any larger in five or ten years’ time, and with the way roads are now being demonised, will almost certainly be smaller.

I did say this subject was associated with a degree of controversy.

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April 24, 2010 - Posted by | Civilian, council, Transport | , , ,

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