Highways England project sees UK’s first use of intelligent cat’s eyes at motorway junction


Highways England (HE) is installing intelligent cat’s eyes that light up in response to changing traffic signals for the first time at a UK motorway junction to improve safety for drivers.

HE is deploying around 170 of the innovative LED road studs at one of England’s busiest motorway junctions, which is used by over 90,000 vehicles every day. The intelligent cat’s eyes are being introduced as part of a £3m (US$4.2m) project to improve journeys and safety at Switch Island in Merseyside, where the M57 and M58 motorways, and three A-roads all join together. The LED road studs light up when traffic signals turn green, so drivers can clearly see which lane they should follow. Cables under the road surface connect them to traffic lights through a nearby automatic controller unit. The studs can be visible up to 3,280ft (1,000m) away and have been proven to help stop drivers drifting between lanes, reducing the risk of collisions. 

HE has already installed the LED studs to guide drivers through the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey, but the Switch Island scheme will be the first time they have been linked to traffic lights at a motorway junction. The project is designed to improve the flow of traffic and enhance safety, following 49 collisions at the junction in the past two years; an average of one every fortnight. New traffic lights will be installed at a height of over 16ft (5m), so that drivers approaching the junction can clearly see when the lights are changing. Other improvements will include changes to the road layout and lane markings, new barriers between carriageways, colored high-friction surfaces, and better signage.

“We’re always looking for new ways to further improve journeys and safety for drivers, and I hope the new intelligent cat’s eyes will help better guide drivers around Switch Island,” said Phil Tyrrell, HE’s project manager for the scheme. “The innovative light-up road studs, along with the other improvements we’re introducing, will make it much easier to navigate the junction, benefitting the tens of thousands of drivers who travel through it every day.”

Nick Lanigan, managing director of Clearview Intelligence, which developed the new intelligent cat’s eyes, said, “The introduction of intelligent road studs, reacting to traffic light changes on a busy roundabout is a continuation of the traditional cat’s eye legacy, but takes advantage of new technology available. The new studs have been proven to reduce lane transgression by over 50% in certain conditions, so it’s a great way to help improve the safety for all road users.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).