Britain plans 'smart roads' to cut traffic jams
LONDON (Reuters) -- Britain's Highways Agency plans to spend 1.2 billion pounds ($1.75 billion) over the next 10 years to make life easier for motorists on the country's congested roads.
The government-funded agency on Tuesday outlined its plans to tackle congestion, improve safety and provide better information for drivers.
Motoring organizations cautiously welcomed the new measures, which will provide what the Highways Agency called an "intelligent road infrastructure."
It plans to install automatic traffic hold-up warning systems on 30 percent of all English motorways by 2004 to reduce accidents at the back of traffic queues.
It will erect 200 more motorway monitoring cameras by 2004 to give faster response to accidents and breakdowns and to reduce disruption and accidents.
It will triple the number of variable message signs on national roads to 1,500 by 2003 to suggest alternative routes and avoid delays at key intersections.
And it will provide real-time strategic management of traffic through the new national traffic control center from 2002. The agency will also back the development by car makers of intelligent in-car information systems.
"By making full use of new technologies we can create a modern, less polluting and more efficient transport system in which roads play their full part," Transport and Environment Minister Lord Whitty said.
Richard Thorndike of the Highways Agency added: "Each of these new tools will help us tackle congestion and provide safer and easier journeys."
More measures needed, groups say
The Royal Automobile Club said wider roads must be built at major bottlenecks.
"We welcome the use of technology to try and alleviate problems with congestion," RAC Foundation executive director Edmund King said. "But some areas need widening and improving."
The Automobile Association said the measures could help the government realize its ambitious plans to reduce congestion, but it may not be enough.
"Motorway traffic is predicted to rise faster than all other traffic," spokesman Paul Watters said, "so we can't ignore longer-term, more sustainable measures, such as additional lanes."
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