back to article DfT to install new motorway tech

The Department for Transport (DfT) is to start work on 24 road and public transport schemes, several including managed motorway and hard shoulder running projects. Under its plans, the department is to improve access to Sheffield by using managed motorways technology on the M1 in Derbyshire between junctions 28 and 31. Active …


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  1. Steve 13
    Thumb Down

    M1 Junc 28 - 31 and 32 - 35a?

    Why exclude the 1/2 mile stretch from the A57 to the M18 turnoff?

    1. Mike Dimmick

      Already wide enough

      The M1 is already four lanes between junction 31 and 32, according to This was done in late 2007/early 2008:

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Just What We Need

    More confusion. More signs to distract us while driving. More wasted money tinkering with a system that's at the point of failing.

    Either build better roads to take the traffic or spend the £600m on providing efficient, clean public transport that suits the public not the operators.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    not that sort pftttt

    So the new linked average speed cams wont be doing anpr, and linked into the national speeding net proposed?

    The police ALREADY use cctv breakdown cameras to prosecute for speeding where they can and have done for quite a number of years. I was involved with a project that was stated definitely not for this very purpose and it ended up with the kit I helped on being used as evidence against people in a court of law. 15+ years ago by dint of some oppo measuring timed distance between frames on the timelapse tapes and punching the plate into a reg search system to see if it was the same colour etc, and that was before automated measurement tech, apnr etc... I left in disgust when I found out what the real intentions behind the kit were.

    So plod is just going to not trough in the easy pickings trough because they've changed their spots after all these years and never lie at all about intentions /sarcasm, and once its installed right in front of them theyre just going to ignore the revenue stream? Pull the other one, its got naive sheep citizen bells on it.

    1. RichyS

      Re. not that sort

      By the sounds of it, the HA will be using the same cameras that they use for measuring the time between junctions (you already see the electronic signs on some motorways telling you how many minutes until the next junction -- the M4 springs to mind).

      These cameras actually reduce your VRM to 4 characters (IIRC), thus making the transmitted data non-unique. If all you're doing is measuring average traffic speed, then this is fine (you'll get a few false positives, but who cares). The good thing is that this processing is done 'in camera' -- so Plod get nothing they can use. Also, IIRC, the cameras are not of evidential quality -- they don't take a scene photo or store the photo of the plate. Again, Plod gets nothing.

      Of course, there's nothing stopping HA changing all the cameras in the future; but I guess the large amount of cash required for little benefit (to them) would dissuade them enough.

      Keep yer tinfoil hats in the cupboard for now.

      1. Pablo
        Big Brother


        Kind of like how the perv scanners were "incapable" of storing images?

  4. Giles Jones Gold badge

    How about this.

    Put signs before the sliproad showing congestion levels.

    Also, it's no use putting overhead warning signs on the motorway warning of a problem ahead when you can't actually get off the motorway to avoid them. Put these warnings somewhere they can be seen *before* you get on the motorway.

    1. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

      ... or this

      Concrete over some of the spare grass on and around motorway junctions and turn them into free car parks for those who want to car share to work.

  5. Martin 19

    'round here ATM seems to consist of

    putting random (camera enforced) speed limits on otherwise clear motorways. A stretch of road with a strictly enforced 70-60-50-40-50-40-60-40 limit is always fun, especially at 8pm.

    Once, on the M42 around J6, I saw a gantry with the limits at 60, apart from one lane which was 20. That did wonders for safety as you can imagine, with people diving out of the middle lane at the last moment to avoid a (presumed) summons for 60mph in a 20mph limit. Good times.

    1. paulf

      letters and digits cannot take your subject right now - please hold

      A bit off topic but:

      I was driving on the M25 recently going clockwise (near the M40 heading north towards the M1), and all the speed limit gantries went suddenly to 60 then 40 then 20. I didn't realise they could go below 40 before then! Bear in mind it was about 23.00 on a Sunday night so the traffic was very light. I jammed on the anchors and the next matrix sign delightfully stated, "Oncoming Vehicle".

      A very nervous few miles keeping a hawk eye out for this supposed oncoming vehicle in the darkness, but thankfully nothing. I wonder if they were doing a systems test, or more likely practising for some future random revenue raising exercises. I didn't get a ticket so perhaps not the latter - at least not for me.

  6. max allan

    I don't get it

    How does making people drive more slowly by imposing variable speed limits make traffic flow more freely.

    Simple physics shows that if you put a restriction on a flow, the flow needs to speed up or pressure will increase until ... someone has an accident.

    1. John Miles

      RE: How does making people drive more slowly

      I believe it works by reducing bunching caused as some drivers try moving faster than the traffic is flowing and thus removing a braking shock wave that travels back through the queue which often grows in magnitude until people have to stop.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        RE: RE: How does making people drive more slowly

        I think there is also a contribution from the people driving safely.

        As vehicle speeds rise the safe distance between vehicles also rises (non-linearly?). There comes a point where this actually reduces the total carrying capacity of the road which of course also leads to congestion.

        I'm not sure where the 'sweet spot' is for a heavilty congested road but perhaps someone else can enlighten us.

    2. Graham Marsden

      @I don't get it

      Consider a situation where, for some reason, traffic bunches up causing cars to come to a halt.

      Now imagine that that creates a "block" of stationary traffic 100 metres long.

      If the cause of the original blockage then goes away, traffic can leave the "block", however if traffic is *arriving* at the block at the same rate as traffic leaves, the block will remain.

      If, however, you slow down the traffic arriving at the block, it will dissipate.

      Of course this relies on people believing and obeying the "slow down" signs, however *that* relies on the Highways Agency *switching off* the signs when they are no longer needed. (For example a few days ago I was on the A3 coming out of Portsmouth and there was a big warning sign saying "Queue Ahead 40mph", but there was no queue to be seen.

      These "cry wolf" signs left running without purpose don't benefit anyone.

  7. Tony Barnes

    Variable speed limits, yey!

    Anyone else notice that 9/10 times the variable speed limits imposed on motorways does little more than cause a tailback? Go past the last stupid sign telling you to do 40mph, and lo and behold, the road ahead is clear.

    They should only ever be turned on when there is an accident coming up, as otherwise, it makes people alter their driving habits to the point of making a problem worse - and also makes folk take their eyes off the road to read the sign, then check, recheck their speed, etc.

    Funnily, humans can see other cars not moving fast in front of them, and adjust their speed without being told to do so. I'm fairly sure that it's an important part of your driving test, you know, not crashing into a slightly slower car ahead of you!

    On which note, I wonder how much time and money is spent every year telling me "Fog, slow down", or "Spray, slow down" - again, it's almost as if I'm taking my eyes off the road to look at something that is telling me the bloody obvious....

    So there goes another massive pile of cash that will do little more than make a situation worse. Great.

    (all IMO obviously, I await "those in the know" to shoot me down!)

  8. Throg

    Not That Sort?

    "It also relies on extensive use of cameras, for checking the variable speed limits used"

    Surely that's *exactly* that sort of camera?

  9. Matt 21

    I'd prefer

    them to spend the money on using the correct materials rather than saving half a penny only to be digging the road up again in a couple of years as it's all broken up. Less road works means better flowing traffic.

    We have to accept the car is here to stay so they should spend the money building decent size roads and have some kind of connected plan to keep things moving. We also need to spread things around a bit so the whole world isn't trying to get into, for example, London. I understand they're trying to build the tallest building in Europe in London at the moment. Obviously that makes a lot of sense as there are no traffic problems in London and loads of spare capacity on buses, trains and the underground!

  10. Llanfair

    The way I see it...

    I think it would be better to have cheaper trains that have more capacity. Also, if freight by rail was encouraged, it would be better for the roads. I am sure that if the number of haulage lorries reduced, the roads would be in better shape. Also, we would not need to have lunatic lorry drivers trying to ram into cars.

    I am all for having cars, but I am sure people would take the train if it was cheaper and more reliable. I have noticed that it's sometimes cheaper to take the car than the train, especially if you did not plan the journey a long time ahead.

  11. thesykes


    several years of delays as they dig up the M1 either side of where I live... can't wait! If only they'd done this at the same time as they had the motorway half closed to replace the central reservation barriers

  12. tony72

    Sod public transport

    Look, less than 25% of the revenue raised from motorists goes back into maintaining and improving the road network, the rest of the vast amount of money leached from motorists goes into the chancellors coffers. Meanwhile, far from raising money for the treasury, fully 50% of the cost of rail travel is born by the taxpayer. Those posters advocating diverting even more money from the roads to rail as a solution to anything are seriously deluded. In the current economic climate, I guess these newly announced schemes are about the best that the long-suffering motorist can expect in terms of improving the road network, so I guess they'll have to do. But I also welcome the continuing reduction of rail subsidies, covered by increased fares. Far from spending more taxpayers money subsidising the railways, I hope one day rail users will actually pay for what they are using, there will be no more subsidies, and a greater share of the money leached from motorists will be used to give us the road network we deserve.

    1. Sean Baggaley 1

      Thanks to a quirk of history...

      ... the rail industry has to provide its *own* infrastructure.

      I don't see Eddie Stobart and his rivals paying to build the roads they clog up, do you? So where does the money to build, maintain and widen all those roads come from?

      That's right: taxpayers. *WE* are paying for all those HGVs—both British and foreign-owned—to use our roads. Hell, our councils are even required to maintain the roads leading into those business parks, logistics centres and so on. Try getting your local council to pay for providing a railway siding into your distribution centre.

      So that'd be a "subsidy" then. Just like rail. Only the road lobby doesn't like to mention this rather important skewing of the playing field in their favour and act like the rail industry is somehow the only one in the country getting money from taxpayers' wallets.

      There are two reasons for the UK's rail network soaking up so much damned money:

      The first is because the UK has an idiotic habit of building shiny new stuff, then *leaving it to rot for decades* before suddenly realising it has a huge backlog of work on its plate. Preventative maintenance is always cheaper than repairs after the fact, but maintenance is also the first department to be cut. (This also applies to roads and is certainly not unique to rail.)

      The second is the equally idiotic privatisation applied to the railways, which was clearly designed by people with absolutely no idea how a railway works. Most of the UK's train operators don't own their own track. They don't even own their own *trains*! Everything's leased from separate (private!) companies, so there's a massive money-go-round with each participant taking its own slice of the cake. Each business in the pot is in it to make a profit for its shareholders. A profit paid for by taxpayers. This moronically inefficient system is so awesome, the subsidy currently being paid to the industry is a mere *FIVE TIMES* what it was when it was all under British Rail.

      1. Martin 19

        Apparently lorries pay no tax

        One for you fact fans: The average lorry pays £17,000 year in road tax and fuel duty.

        Another fact: Taxes levied on lorries alone account for 75% of the entire road budget.

        Yeah, thats a juicy subsidy alright.

    2. Sean Baggaley 1

      One More Thing...®

      Very little of the UK's tax revenues are ring-fenced. Taxes from road users are no exception. That 25% of it allegedly goes into paying for road works and breeding traffic cones is a miracle in itself, and also very unlikely, as the UK spends *far* less per head on transport infrastructure in total. The vast majority of your tax money goes on the NHS and defence, not transport.

      Statistical data makes it clear that the UK's spending on transport is tiny by comparison with its neighbours. Even the Italians and French spend more tax money on transport infrastructure than the British—and both have privatised motorway networks!

      During New Labour, spending on transport as a percentage of GDP dropped to a level not seen since the 1940s, but WW2 provided a pretty unassailable excuse for that. Spending wasn't that much better during the 1990s either, so any fans of the Tories can wipe those smug grins off their faces.

  13. a53

    New motorway tech

    I don't get it → #

    Posted Thursday 28th October 2010 10:16 GMT

    In DfT to install new motorway tech

    How does making people drive more slowly by imposing variable speed limits make traffic flow more freely.

    Simple physics shows that if you put a restriction on a flow, the flow needs to speed up or pressure will increase until ... someone has an accident.

    All you end up with is the queue moved further back down the road.

    1. Bad Fish

      Variable speed limits

      @max allan:

      They surely work by letting the traffic use all the lanes: if the limit is faster than the lorries in the inside lane, nobody else wants to use that lane. So you effectively gain an extra 33% or 50% road, which compensates for the extra traffic.

      In other countries they ban lorries at peak times, which has the same effect *and* allows the increased capacity that extra speed gives.

  14. Captain TickTock

    Hard Shoulder

    So what happens when there's an accident, and all lanes and the hard shoulder are jammed.

    How do the emergency services deal with that?

    1. Pandy06269

      They close the hard shoulder

      As soon as the accident is reported or noticed, the control centre close the hard shoulder some way back so emergency services can get through.

      Germany's autobahn is much cleverer - the systems constantly monitor the traffic flow along the road and if it notices an unusual pattern (stopped or slowing traffic) it alerts a control centre who can respond and close or open a lane as necessary.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Camera's on M1

    "variable speed limits and use of hard shoulders, involves use of digital signage and monitoring to minimise congestion. It also relies on extensive use of cameras, for checking the variable speed limits used, to monitor usage and to watch for breakdowns when hard shoulders are used for traffic, as a way of providing more capacity without building new roads or lanes."

    If its anything like the average camera systems near Nottingham on the M1, which every Average Speed sign also has a Speed Camera sign on them also - then they definately will be monitoring if you exceed the Variable Speed. My son remarked that there was enough on there to lose a license easily.

  16. James Pickett


    “This government sees transport as a key driver of growth”

    So how do they square that with cutting down on emissions and/or meeting their CO2 reduction targets? I don’t think they matter, but HMG is always telling us they do, and taxes accordingly...

  17. thecakeis(not)alie

    Imposing variable speed limits

    This strikes me as a very bad idea. Do we really want to be adding more complexity to driving? There are enough dynamic variables as it is...

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "What happens when ..."

    Well I think we already know what happens when there's a snag.

    Anyone who's driven through a city that uses Active Traffic Management to maximise traffic throughput knows what happens when the unexpected (but inevitable) happens. Because these places have deliberately been running traffic volumes above and beyond their natural "unmanaged" limits, the chaos you get when something goes wrong is above and beyond the natural level of chaos that would have occurred in the absence of "management". E.g. journeys that might normally take half an hour suddenly take many hours because there's citywide (not just local) gridlock.

    What's going to be different when we apply these "traffic maximisation" principles to motorways? Nothing. Surely the M25 car park is evidence of that already.

    Madness. Utter madness.

  19. Ku...

    Something needs to be done.

    This is a horrific stretch of motorway. Not just because it leads to Sheffield either.... ;-)

    Something needs to be done with most of the M1 through the Midlands and North it starts feckin up about J21 and doesn't get right again until somewhere about J29. Leicester to Chesterfield seems to be the absolute worst.

    The A roads linking many of the big cities to the M1 are also dreadful, the A52 into Derby is bad but the A610 and A453 into Nottingham are an absolute joke.

    I've seen stuff from various places suggesting ATM can help, case studies of various cities abroad and the like. I'm not sure if we are passed the limit for that though.

    Dare I suggest telecommuting...

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