Motorway congestion costs time and money, but Morgan Sindall Infrastructure and BAM Nuttall’s joint venture, called bmJV, along with supply chain partners Graham Firth Communications,Videcon and Digifort, have created smart CCTV to clear roads more quickly and have a faster response time to accidents.
The pilot CCTV monitoring scheme was launched in April and is currently on the M62 between junctions 10 to 12 in the North West, and is part of a smart motorways project for Highways England. It identifies stationary vehicles or foreign objects on the live carriageway and reports them to operators automatically.
The system was developed using algorithms from the security industry and enables faster and more effective responses than previous infrastructure. Cameras use geo-fencing to plot an area of the camera’s image, which is then observed, and vehicle speeds monitored. When there is a speed register of zero, an automatic warning is sent to the operator and identifies the vehicle or object. The operator then checks the area and can commence recovery actions.
It’s not just speed that these smart cameras collect. They are also GDPR compliant to pick out number plates and can recognise pedestrians in the carriageway.
Improving the industry standard
According to senior design manager, Mark Coles, and programme manager, Thomas Stanton, from Morgan Sindall, this is an improvement on the current industry standard which involves operatives manning the CCTV control room 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
“Their role is to monitor the camera units along the length of the scheme, of which there are 68 in this instance. This is a safety critical role, and the CCTV team are responsible for identifying live lane incidents within the works, and notifying our recovery crews, traffic safety and control officers, the Highways England Regional Control Centre, and the emergency services when necessary.
“This is an industry standard set up, as is the sweep rota, whereby an entire site is monitored every 30 minutes. The remaining times, the cameras are in a fixed position. Therefore, for an incident to be identified in a timely manner, in essence it needs to occur within the frame of the fixed camera location currently being viewed by the operative.
“The analytical software can maintain vigilance over all 68 cameras simultaneously, therefore reducing operative stress and improving our team’s wellbeing.”
Coles and Stanton went on to explain that while they know the system works, all of the data that proves it does will be released at the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.
“BmJV has worked closely with our client, Highways England, to identify clearly defined success criteria, in order to measure the successful implementation of the initiative. This has enabled us to begin gathering data in order to report our findings at the end of 2019.
If the pilot scheme proves a success, what does the partnership of companies expect to happen in the future?
Coles and Stanton explained that they “hope the results lead to this approach being rolled out on more temporary traffic management digital CCTV networks, but as the system is new, bmJV consider it prudent to maintain the manual link in the decision-making process while the system is trialled and gather additional data regarding the system’s operation.”
The pair added: “Highways England is very supportive and see it as having the potential to make a difference to the industry with the potential to improve road user safety and enhance work force safety.
“Furthermore, all parties involved are now working together to develop the solution in order to roll this technology out into the permanent works, improving road user safety over the full lifespan of the asset.
“At this stage, the limited data does not give a robust enough conclusion on the system, and, as this is the first use for technology in the highways sector, the bedding in period was essential to ensure the system operated efficiently.
“Anecdotally however, our CCTV operatives have noticed a far swifter response to live lane breakdowns, with recovery agents able to access breakdown far ahead of major congestion due to lane blockages.”
With a forthcoming report in December that will showcase its collected data and prove its usefulness, Coles and Stanton talked about what they for the future.
“If all goes to plan, we anticipate a mass rollout by mid-2020. That means motorways will be retrofitted, which is a relatively simple job as long as they have digital CCTV cameras as it’s just a matter of uploading software. The schemes currently under construction will be done after their completion.”