Swarco provides VMS for Port of Dover’s new traffic management project


Traffic at the Port of Dover, Kent, on the south coast of England – which caters for over two million trucks a year – is set to benefit from new variable message signs (VMS) as part of its £85m (US$124m) Traffic Management Improvement (TMI) scheme.

The ultimate aim is to better manage and control vehicles through a new freight holding facility and remove more than 2.5 miles (4km) of queuing traffic from Kent’s highways. In order to do this, the port has created a 13-lane holding zone catering for 220 outbound trucks, limiting the need for Dover TAP (Traffic Access Protocol), a ‘rolling road’ truck queuing system on the A20, and greatly reducing traffic and delays in Dover itself.

VMS technology from Swarco plays a key role in the scheme. Swarco won a competitive tender by FM Conway, the TMI scheme’s main contractor, to install 15 signs: two are used to direct trucks into customs or the holding facility, depending on the quantity of traffic; the remainder are installed on a 187ft-long (57m) gantry at the start of the holding facility, giving drivers clear information about which lane to enter.

“Swarco aligned its service and support with ours to ensure that our partnering ethos was maintained throughout the project,” said Matt Smith, head of structures at FM Conway. “Working to extremely tight timescales and programme changes, Swarco carried out its works in a professional and accommodating manner which helped to ensure we delivered this project on time and to budget.”

The signs, which were made to order within three months and include over 160,000 individual LEDs, were required to meet the port’s exacting light emission standards to cater for its 24/7 freight needs and reduce light pollution at night.

As a part of the contract, Swarco also installed its management software, giving the operator 12 settings (which can be altered) for different scenarios; 65 traffic detection sensors with count in/out capability; and barriers, operated by a traffic light system, that mark the holding facility’s end.

Tim Waggott, the Port’s Chief Executive, said the Port of Dover is a crucial link of national and international importance: “However, we are never complacent and are constantly looking at ways to improve our service. That’s why we’ve invested millions in removing old buildings and installing new traffic management technology and infrastructure to create even more freight holding capacity.”

Andrew Walker, Swarco’s business development manager, said technical advancements further the smooth running of ports’ operations: “Continued investment in our ports is required to support the UK’s growing trade needs. The installation at the Port of Dover emphasizes Swarco’s ability to provide quality solutions and equipment to benefit the port, reduce traffic congestion in the local area, and enhance the UK’s trading needs.”

The Port of Dover handles £119bn (US$174bn) of trade annually, and saw record freight volumes of 2.53 million units in 2015, up 5% on 2014, and handles up to 17% of the UK’s trade.

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About Author


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).