Congestion tackled by traffic project

Newcastle's Percy Street with the Newcastle University campus in the distance. 
Image: Geograph, Bill Henderson.Newcastle's Percy Street with the Newcastle University campus in the distance. Image: Geograph, Bill Henderson.

Newcastle City Council is working in liaison with Newcastle University and the Department for Transport to develop new smart technology in the city with the aim to reduce traffic congestion.

The City Council has recently been awarded a £100,000 Funding for Innovation grant, making a total of £748,200, to develop a ground-breaking traffic regulation scheme in which a “Smart Corridor” is being developed within the city as part of the University’s three-year Compass 4D project. The project uses Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) to connect buses that operate services on Gosforth High Street with traffic signals, which communicate with the buses using artificial intelligence and allow the lights to stay green for a few extra seconds if the bus is nearby to allow it to pass through. This is a new development in the field of intelligent traffic lights, which deviate from traditional traffic lights, using sensors, digital communication and artificial intelligence to adapt to changing traffic levels in order to manage both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. This concept of smart traffic management is a growing trend that can be seen spreading across other UK cities, including Northampton, Edinburgh and Cambridge. All have traffic light systems similar to what will soon be implemented in Newcastle.

The equipment, which is due to be implemented in spring 2017, primarily aims to reduce the number of times buses stop and start on their routes. This is expected to bring a variety of benefits to both travellers on these buses and the wider community by reducing congestion at key junctions, maintaining traffic management and enhancing air quality along of some of Newcastle’s busiest roads. A pilot project run in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania run by Carnegie Mellon University showed that idle time spent at lights was reduced by 40% and travel times across the city were cut by 26%.

Phil Blythe, Professor of Transport at Newcastle University, said:

“These are exciting times in the world of transport and here in Newcastle we are leading the way – taking the first step towards a fully automated system with intelligent infrastructure and, eventually, driverless cars.

“Smart technology which enables the traffic signals and vehicles to ‘talk’ to each other allows us to manage the flow of traffic, giving priority to certain road users such as buses or perhaps re-directing drivers on quieter routes so we reduce congestion, fuel use and emissions.

“It also offers us the opportunity to introduce a range of safety benefits, particularly for vulnerable road users such as cyclists. This is the first installation of its kind in the UK we will use this as a platform to lead innovations in traffic management to deliver improvements in safety, congestion and air quality and to build on decade of innovative collaborations between the City and University in Newcastle.

“By supporting and installing this technology, the city is ensuring that we are at the forefront of implementing intelligent transport systems and, as new technologies emerge into the market, will be at the forefront of testing and evaluating these.”

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