NW Systems’ live cameras help manage traffic congestion in Durham, UK

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Faced with serious traffic congestion problems during a period of major city center roadworks, the city of Durham in north east England has deployed a new network of cameras to help manage vehicle flow.

Durham County Council’s Traffic Signals and Urban Traffic Management and Control (UTMC) team commissioned hosted video service provider NW Systems (NWS) to develop an HD-quality camera system to provide real-time views over potential congestion hot spots associated with major repairs on Milburngate Bridge. The bridge carries the A690 trunk road across the River Wear close to the city’s historic center and handles approximately 48,000 vehicles a day. During the bridge repairs, traffic was restricted to one lane each way, potentially causing major congestion if not managed carefully. A combination of early warnings to motorists in case of traffic congestion and a highly proactive public information campaign proved to be the answer in keeping the traffic moving.

NWS designed and developed an 18-camera system for the council, to help them monitor and manage city center traffic congestion affecting the city’s main arteries during the bridge repairs, major road works, and traffic signalization projects. The new traffic cameras proved their worth very quickly: traffic volumes in rush hours fell nearly 25% below normal levels for that time of year, and the council’s traffic camera web pages became the most popular pages on its site, drawing an average of 30,873 page views per week throughout the seven weeks of bridge repairs. Following the council’s decision to continue using the live cameras to provide views of road works associated with new traffic signalization projects at Gilesgate and Leazes Bowl roundabouts, Durham’s traffic cameras remain the number one search topic for visitors to the council’s website.

“For the live camera system to be effective, road users needed to be able to quickly load and view live views via our website, using this information to plan their journeys to avoid the worst of the traffic,” explained Malcolm Sinclair, team leader for traffic control and UTMC at Durham County Council. “Live traffic cameras here in Durham have proved vital in helping us manage traffic flows when the city’s road system is under stress. They stimulate motorists travelling at peak times to seek alternative modes of transport, change their routes, or set off earlier to avoid delays. They’ve also helped reduce the workload on our help desks, which otherwise have to gear up to handle much higher volumes of enquiries and complaints during major road works.”

Frank Crouwel, managing director of NW Systems, commented, “Our experience in running managed and hosted video services, for a number of construction and property development companies over recent years, gave us the wherewithal and technology know-how to offer Durham County Council a shrink-wrapped, mobile live traffic monitoring service, which is highly cost effective. It gives them the flexibility to move cameras to new areas of potential congestion, while only paying running costs when the traffic cameras are needed.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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