Swarco wins contract for 78 smart motorway VMS in UK


Swarco Traffic, working in partnership with Costain, has won a new contract to provide 78 variable message signs (VMS) to National Highways (formerly Highways England) for its £85 million M56 junction 6 to junction 8 motorway upgrade.

The signs will display variable speed limits, traffic and safety information, helping to convert the hard shoulder on the stretch of highway to a live lane – a solution known as ‘all-lane-running’, or in the UK, more specifically ‘smart motorways’.

With National Highways looking for an all-lane-running motorway solution, Swarco has worked with Costain and Galliford Try to supply 15 Motorway Sign Mark 4s (MS4s), four MS3s, and 59 Advanced Motorway Indicators (AMIs). The varied functionality of these VMS will enable National Highways to manage the motorway in real time and effectively respond to incidents as they occur.

“A modern highway system requires both traffic monitoring and real-time information,” says Jack Ellis, Swarco project manager. “Our VMS are capable of responding to incidents as soon as they happen, and these are supplemented by live monitoring which includes automatic event recognition to enable an immediate operator response.

“Our systems are also able to measure speeds and the distances between vehicles, as well as environmental parameters such as wind, humidity, temperature and emissions to provide a holistic overview of our highways.”

The Swarco signs are controlled by Costain’s Roadside Controller Version 3 (RCV3) and each has been awarded MCH1600 Product Acceptance Certificates from National Highways. The signs are expected to be installed in February 2022.

Smart motorways have caused some controversy in the UK in the last few months with some sections of the media branding them ‘deathtraps’. For a full investigation into these traffic management schemes don’t miss the September 2021 edition of TTi magazine. 

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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).