Furore over M25 cameras “cock-up”

12.00 | 14 December 2012 | | 5 comments

Drivers speeding on the M25 have not been issued with a single ticket from its overhead cameras over the past year because of technical and legal difficulties (Telegraph).

The problems have prevented the Highways Agency from switching on the network of 36 new digital cameras intended to enforce variable speed limits on the London orbital motorway.

PACTS, the AA and Labour’s road safety spokesperson have all expressed their surprise and dismay at the revelation.

The failure was discovered by the AOL website, which had hoped to identify the biggest money raiser on the 117-mile long road, only to find that the cameras had caught no speeders at all.

The first of the digital cameras were installed in 2009, but a Highways Agency spokesman admitted that it had still not received statutory authority to use them on the Surrey, Hertfordshire and Essex stretches.

On other parts of the M25, where authority has been given, the difficulties were described as purely “technical” relating to upgrading the older generation of “wet film” cameras to the new digital devices.

A spokesperson said the Highways Agency was working with police “as a matter of urgency” to address the situation, but was unable to say when they will be in use.

Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour’s road safety spokesman, said: “This revelation is unbelievable. The M25 is already used as a racetrack by a number of reckless drivers. If there is one place where we need working cameras it is on that stretch of motorway.”

Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “You do see drivers slow down when they pass under the gantries. We know there were some concerns when the signs were changing whether the cameras were keeping up.”

Robert Gifford, executive director of PACTS, said: “This sounds like a perfect combination of cock-ups.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph report.


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    Dan’s data would appear to vindicate the proposition that when circumstances bring about wholesale speed reduction there is a casualty reduction benefit. Trying to recreate this effect by enforcement may have unwelcome effects on motorists, but as long as limits are clearly posted, these effects are a consequence of failure to note the limits or appreciate their purpose. Anecdotal evidence suggests the general level of enforcement is not sufficient to bring about routine compliance and this, along with a range of other influences probably encourages some motorists to disregard speed limits. No surprise then that when actually confronted by enforcement the first response is one of panic. How does an intelligent society resolve this conundrum without overbearing surveillance? Usually an effort of will on the part of a critical mass of people is required. So if at 11.55 on New Year’s Eve you are short of a resolution, try this one. In 2013 look out for and abide by speed limits, and be part of the solution. Merry Christmas!

    Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton
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    Anyone who believes that average speed cameras can prevent collisions or casualties, especially in roadworks, needs to read the Highways Agency report “Camera Technologies in Roadworks” from (I think) March 2008, which revealed that there were no road safety benefits from the use of ASCs, which was clearly due to the cameras introducing hazards (sudden braking (yes, even in ASC zones), bunching, distraction, and sudden lane changing). It takes wishful thinking in spades to believe the same devices can aid road safety and improve casualty results.

    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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    Data for M25 crashes (occurring in the stretches relating to Thames Valley, Surrey & Hertfordshire only) in the years 2004-11.


    2005-07 – Average of 722 injury collisions, 2009-11 that average had fallen to 500. Hard to do meaningful analysis without additional examination of flow & speed data though as Steve identifies; but looks worthy of further study.

    Most interesting stat is the improvement in KSI collisions in 2008; presumably while the roadworks were suppressing speeds. Factoring in the influence of traffic controls associated with the road widening works would be important to this analysis.

    Dan Campsall, Banbury
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    Have the cameras nonetheless been flashing during this time? If so, says researcher rubbing his hands, this sounds like a perfect control group: influence of detection without penalty on crashes, speeds and flows. And a whole year’s data! Get some PhD students in there quick!

    Steve Stradling, Manchester
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    Has there been any change in accident rates on the M25 whilst the cameras have not been working? If not this seems to be the perfect way to continue.

    Bobbio Saint Albans
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