New traffic control centre for Essex

HOLD-UPS, jams and gridlock could be a thing of the past if a new traffic management system for Essex lives up to its promises.A new high-tech traffic control centre, which monitors transport conditions across the county and uses up-to-the-minute communications equipment to detect and solve traffic problems, was launched yesterday.

By Roddy Ashworth

HOLD-UPS, jams and gridlock could be a thing of the past if a new traffic management system for Essex lives up to its promises.

A new high-tech traffic control centre, which monitors transport conditions across the county and uses up-to-the-minute communications equipment to detect and solve traffic problems, was launched yesterday.

The centre, the first in the country, has sophisticated systems to highlight trouble spots on the roads and ease congestion in peak times, as well as provide information for people to plan their journeys.


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Based in County Hall, Chelmsford, the centre gathers information in order to gauge traffic conditions, such as the speed and location of buses and can alter the timings of traffic signals to ease congestion.

Features of the new system include:

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n TRIPS (Travel Real Time Information Priority Systems), an award-winning initiative which is the largest and most advanced in Europe and can provide travellers with up to the minute electronic information on the location and progress of 300 buses in the county.

n COMET (Central Office Management for Integrated Traffic). Enables operators to monitor and control all aspects of traffic management across the county. It aims to provide them with real time graphical representation of the current traffic situation and what might be causing congestion, such as accidents or roadworks.

n Urban Traffic Control, which allows traffic signals and timings to be controlled and pre-planned, or altered to help emergency vehicles get through busy traffic. CCTV can be monitored from the centre.

n OCTV (Open circuit television) is a mobile, temporary system that can be activated by dialling through on a mobile phone. It can be placed at roadworks where there is specific problem which needs monitoring

ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras will be used to record journey times on key inter-urban and inner urban routes. They will be used to improve the reliability of journey times in and around the county.

n Car park guidance system. These consist of variable message signs, which can give up to the minute information on the number of spaces available in the county's car parks.

The signs will show either the number of spaces available or indicate if a car park is full or closed.

n Customer services - up-to-date information will be available at the centre, including bus and rail timetables, detailed journey planners throughout Britain, Stansted Airport arrival and departure times, parking information by means of changing car park signs and cycling, walking and countryside route information.

The Essex Traffic Control Centre cost £500,000 to set up and a further £2 million will be invested over the next three years.

Rodney Bass, Essex County Council's cabinet member for transport, said: “We are giving the public the most comprehensive information yet on how best to plan their journeys, whether by car or public transport.”

Professor David Begg, director of the Centre for Transport Policy, said: “Essex County Council's introduction of a new advanced traffic control centre with its ability to detect traffic problems and duly inform drivers and public transport users, is an excellent initiative in helping ease the problems caused by congestion.”

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