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RAC concern as Cardiff ‘yellow box’ pilot scheme rolled out in England

01 Apr 2022 3 minute read
Yellow box picture by David Martin (CC BY-SA 2.0).

The RAC have expressed concern after it was announced that a Cardiff pilot scheme to prosecute drivers who block yellow boxes at junctions will be rolled out across England.

Yellow boxes are used to ensure that traffic flows smoothly through busy junctions, and drivers can only enter them when travelling or waiting to turn.

But the RAC said that thousands of drivers could be wrongly fined as soon as English councils are able to enforce the rules, because many junctions have design flaws that cause drivers to become trapped through no fault of their own.

They pointed to figures from Cardiff, attained through an FOI request, showing that box junction enforcement had been “lucrative” for the council.

Nearly four times as many penalty charge notices (PCNs) were issued in Wales’ capital city in 2018/19 compared to 2016/17 (74,142 compared to 19,080) translating to a £1.8m hike in revenue (£593,160 to £2.4m – 313%).

The most profitable offences for Cardiff were ‘no turns’ yielding £1.4m in contrast to £826,424 for yellow box junctions and £182,782 for ‘no entry’ offences.

The RAC were also concerned that some yellow boxes were so poorly maintained that it was hard to see where the yellow lines started and finished.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “In the absence of definitive guidance on the design, maintenance and enforcement of box junctions there will be a high degree of confusion among drivers and local authorities which could lead to an avalanche of penalty charge notices being wrongly issued and then having to be appealed.

“This will inevitably lead to an unnecessarily high number of appeals for local authorities to review, as well as some poor outcomes for drivers.”


The RAC learned of the gaps in the official yellow box guidance when it commissioned chartered engineer Sam Wright, who was formerly responsible for the design and approval of yellow boxes on the Transport for London road network, to write a report explaining how they are enforced in the capital with a view to highlighting the potential confusion that lies ahead as local authorities begin enforcing them.

Sam Wright explains: “The key design principle is that yellow boxes should be no bigger than is necessary to prevent vehicles obstructing through movements. They are not designed for, and serve no purpose in, situations where vehicles are travelling in the same direction.

“The second main condition is that drivers should have adequate visibility beyond the box to be able to make a clear judgement before entering it. It’s not just that drivers need to see the end of the box, they need to see that there is space beyond the box for their vehicle to fit without any part of it overhanging. In the case of a car that will be 5-6m. For larger vehicles, it will be up to 15m. I think designers should have to take a car out in rush hour to see if they can negotiate the box without stopping, before insisting that others do the same.

“Drivers may also be surprised to hear that there is no legal requirement for authorities to meet this design criteria and it’s simply down to the competence of the enforcing authority.”

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1 year ago

I’m quite amused that the photo used to illustrate a story regarding Wales and England was taken in Edinburgh.

1 year ago

Why is this considered a “Cardiff” pilot scheme, drivers have been fined for obstructing yellow boxes in that London for years? or is this just another opportunity for an English institution to point an accusatory finger at Wales.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
1 year ago

I agree with the RAC, having driven in Cardiff and been aware of the yellow box law. On a number of occasions I have stayed out of a box as unsure whether the exit was clear enough for me to procede (if you wait a few moments for the vehicle in front to safely pass the box, unhindred, you’ll know if it’s safe for you to proceed), the road off was not open enough to assess whether it was clear or not. That has to change for drivers not to be unepectedly caught out. That may mean adjusting the box… Read more »

1 year ago

Reminds me of the last time I went pre pandemic Christmas shopping in Cardiff 3 years ago, approached the traffic lights coming from the Splott direction, the lights were on red, I was the lead car at the lights. New to myself at the time was a ” yellow box” between my car & the next set of lights (between the fire station & the prison). My lights turn green & I’m looking across to see if I have enough room at the opposite lights which are still at red, motorists behind beeping me to move on so took the… Read more »

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