A TRAFFIC masterplan with benefits totalling more than £3m has been unveiled to ease congestion in Portsmouth, The News can reveal.
Cutting-edge technology could be bought to upgrade traffic lights to get cars moving and ease bottlenecks across the road network – a move that could see journey times across the city cut on average by four per cent.
There is a major problem with traffic in the city. We know that and we are putting our money where our mouth is and going to carry out major traffic improvements across the city.Councillor Donna Jones, Tory leader of Portsmouth City Council
The traffic signal control system would cost £910,000 out of a £3.06m pot that has been set aside for major road improvements.
It would see detectors put under roads near traffic lights and signals installed on them at different pinch points to detect how many cars are approaching.
The sensors would work to cut queues at a red signal, by assessing traffic approaching a junction and calculating whether keeping a green light on for longer would be better.
When approaches are overloaded, such as during peak periods, a computer working alongside the sensors would arrange a set of traffic signal timings to maximise the number of cars getting through.
The council says the move would be of huge benefit to residents, commuters and visitors seeking to get around as the city continues to attract bigger events.
The piece of kit, known as Microprocessor Optimised Vehicle Actuation (MOVA) – already in use in London and Birmingham – has been hailed as the answer to Portsmouth’s long-standing traffic woes.
Revealing the plans, Portsmouth City Council Tory leader Donna Jones said: ‘There is a major problem with traffic in the city.
‘We know that and we are putting our money where our mouth is and are going to carry out major traffic improvements across the city.
‘We will speed up journeys where we can, especially as car usage is going up.
‘We know the population of the city will increase, so we would be naive to think there will not be more cars on the road in five years’ time.
‘This should have been done a long time ago, and my concern is other cities in the UK have had this technology for the last five to 10 years.’
A briefing report into the upgrade works says it is ‘critical’ the city’s road network is ‘operating as efficiently as possible to meet future challenges’. The improvements will ‘not only support our regeneration aspirations, but will also enhance the quality of life for residents of the city,’ the dossier adds.
But Portsmouth Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, questioned why up to £1m of taxpayers’ money was being spent on ‘a computer system’.
Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Anything that can get traffic moving in the city is a good thing, but I don’t think we have been consulted on this at all. It’s £1m on a computer system and will need to have more detail over whether that money would be well spent.’
The other proposals contained in the £3.06m transport pot are a £1.8m programme of maintenance to Eastern Road Waterbridge, south of the A27, and another £353,000 has been set aside for traffic-calming measures and other requested improvements.
Cllr Jones says the bridge work, which includes repairs to steel beams and a repaint, has been classed as a priority as the structure could become a risk to road users in future years.
A report into the council’s planned capital budget programme, totalling £12.9m but rising to £96m when taking into account borrowing costs and government contributions, warns that if the defects are not treated, motorists ‘will be subjected to prolonged narrowed lanes’ and the road could close.
Simon Brownlie, city traffic and network manager, said: ‘We want to reduce delays as much as possible for visitors to the city, and support the regeneration agenda.Also, a lot of the equipment and technology we have out there is 15 years old; clearly it was put in at the right time, but technology moves on.
‘It ties in with our traffic management centre plans, which will see an upgrade of our systems as well.’
A final decision will be made over the spending programme at the full council on Tuesday, February 9.
BELOW are the list of junctions where the state-of-the-art MOVA traffic control system would be installed in should the plans get final approval.
Eastney/Bransbury/Devonshire junction - to include full refurbishment to a puffin crossing.
Total cost: £175,000
Velder Avenue/Moorings Way junction - to include full refurbishment with introduction of toucan crossing. Total cost: £120,000
Milton Road/St Mary’s Hospital junction - To include pelican to toucan crossing conversion.
Total cost: £60,000
Fratton Road/New Road junction. Total cost: £30,000.
Winston Churchill Avenue/Hampshire Terrace junction. Total cost: £20,000.
A3/A27/M27 junction. Total cost: £60,000.
Southwick Hill Road/QA Hospital junction - Refurbishment plus conversion to puffin crossing. Total cost: £150,000.
Havant Road/Spur Road crossing: - Refurbishment plus new puffin crossings. Total cost: £120,000.
Eastern Road/Burrfields junction - to include full refurbishment. Total cost: £175,000.
Grand total: £910,000.
HOW THE TECHNOLOGY WORKS
MINI computers working alongside the proposed new MOVA sensors would hold a database of car movements and be able to work out exactly how long green and red lights should stay on for.
The computers would also be programmed by council traffic engineers to ‘favour’ particular routes in the city where there is most congestion so the systems know when traffic should flow freely.
The proposed favoured routes are; the M275 western corridor down to the seafront, Eastern Road down to Milton Road and Fratton Road.
The council is currently able to manually control traffic lights from its traffic base at the city’s civic offices, but only for a limited period due to technological constraints.
If a sensor in the carriageway is faulty, it will automatically work on previous average times rather than running long green light times when there is no traffic on the approach.
The technology is already in place at the Anchorage Road/ Eastern Road junction and Airport Service Road/Eastern Road junction and has helped to cut down delays.
The council is also seeking to introduce low-voltage lights at crossings which could save up to 80 per cent on energy bills at each site.