Minister of State for Transport Dr Stephen Ladyman has announced a £490m 10-year National Roads Telecommunications Services project to upgrade existing road communications systems
The initiative will create a network linking more than 14,000 message signs, emergency telephones, CCTV cameras and traffic monitoring systems to the Highways Agency's network of traffic control centres.
"This is good news for the thousands of drivers who use our motorway network everyday," said Dr Ladyman.
"The aim is to give drivers the real-time information they need to plan their journeys more effectively, avoiding congested stretches of the network, reducing the costs to business and the levels of driver stress that delays can cause."
Dr Ladyman also reaffirmed the somewhat controversial plans for black-box type devices in cars to allow police to gain more information in the case of accidents rather than as a means of road pricing.
The upgrade will also enable the Highways Agency to develop new initiatives, such as access to real-time CCTV pictures of traffic conditions via the internet.
The first phase of the project will include work to install cables on parts of the M4, M3 and M62 and replace and upgrade electronics in more than 150 roadside transmission stations.
The new contract will replace the current arrangements, which involve a large number of different telecoms contracts, with a single national contract. BT declined to comment on whether it had been approached about the contract.
A spokeswoman for the Road Haulage Association welcomed the news. "We have long been saying that the government needs to implement better systems to help reduce congestion," she said.
"But we have also pointed out that some of the pinch points can only be solved by building new roads. Long term there needs to be an admission that this is what is required."
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