Next-generation VMS delivered to Highways England by Swarco and Costain


The UK division of the Austrian traffic technology supplier Swarco and technology-based engineering services company Costain have collaborated to develop and install the next generation of Variable Message Signs (VMS) for use on the country’s major roads.

Working on behalf of Highways England (HE), the two companies have pioneered the technology behind the new signs, with Costain delivering the roadside controller unit and Swarco delivering the new signage. The partners are the first to create and deploy the next generation of digital signage that are able to get messages to road users more quickly, resulting improved road safety and a better journey experience for travelers. Intended for deployment across HE’s Strategic Road Network (SRN), the new signs use unique high-resolution full-color optical technology components that enable clearer messages and graphics to be displayed in all weather conditions, providing reliable and easy-to-understand information to keep road users continually updated about road conditions.


Innovative approaches to design and production also mean the new VMS units are more cost effective and easier to maintain than previous designs. For example, less materials and cabling have been used, minimizing maintenance requirements and the time engineers spend at the roadside. In addition, the new signs also have the capability to display live video pictures of congestion on the road ahead, and this real-time visual imagery could be provided to road users in the future.


The first of the new signs have been installed on the country’s biggest road project, the A14 improvement scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon. The deployment has been carried out with the support of the A14 Integrated Delivery Team, which is a joint venture comprising Costain, Balfour Beatty and Skanska on behalf of HE. Costain and Swarco will be installing more of these next generation signs throughout the remainder of this year and into 2020 on the country’s smart motorway network, including sections of the M20, M23 and the M1.

“We are extremely proud to have worked with Costain on this project,” said Jeremy Cowling, vice president of Swarco’s ITS division for the UK and APMEA region. “We are at the forefront in developing low power, sustainable technologies to make our roads safer. This results in highly legible, environmentally friendly road signs which also minimize maintenance time and costs.”

Ian Parker, managing director of transportation at Costain, commented, “We are leading the way in the use of digital technologies on the strategic road network and changing the landscape in how road users use road signs, improving safety and journey experience.”




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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.