Local highway authorities need significant investment to bring their traffic signal assets up to date, but must also do more to specify low-carbon construction methods, a key industry figure has said.
Alistair Gollop (pictured), global transport technology technical champion at Mott MacDonald, said that while LED products, and particularly emerging products, provided significant energy savings compared to halogen versions, ‘in the coming few years reliance on electrical savings will not be sufficient in its own right’.
Speaking at the 27th Annual JCT Traffic Signal Symposium, he added: ‘Specifying low carbon products should be integrated into projects from the very start, rather than being afterthoughts.'
Commenting from the floor, Kealie Franklin, general secretary of the Association for Road Traffic Safety and Management, pointed out that from her members’ point of view the transition from halogen to LED has not been a fast as might have been hoped and suggested that the issue was not so much what was specified but that ‘people are waiting, waiting, waiting for things to need to be replaced’.
Acknowledging recent central government funding for traffic signal refurbishment, Mr Gollop replied: ‘I think one of the biggest problems in our industry is that there is a hell of a lot of old kit out on the roadside and a lot of local authorities are so cash-strapped, they cannot afford to make those investments to replace items, unless they physically blow up or catch fire or somebody drives through it.
‘If we make a pragmatic assessment of the situation, that is the problem. We need more investment to bring kit up to date as it is, let alone take the next steps forward.’
At the same event, Keith McCabe of Simplifai Systems and carbon Ambassador for ITS (UK), said it was also important to optimise the impact of the existing asset on the operation of the network.
Giving a presentation with Robert Whiteside from Kirklees Council on a project in Kirklees seeking to use artificial intelligence (AI) to support traffic control systems, Mr McCabe said this was the starting point for the project.
He said it was also important to ask: ‘What happens if you focus on the air quality agenda and the carbon agenda in operations, in how you optimise the signals?’
Mr McCabe, said: ‘If you compare the cost of [software and AI] to the cost of the whole traffic signal asset in any local authority, what’s already there is the important thing; that’s worth a lot.’