Remote control traffic lights plan for car fume hotpots

State-of-the-art technology could be used to change traffic lights remotely to tackle queues and boost air quality across Southend.

Southend Council is rolling out a high-tech system which will assess the air quality around busy junctions.

This will then change lights to ease traffic and prevent idling.

Live signs will also share up to date information with drivers.

It comes as the council published its air quality action plan which is set to improve air pollution across the city.

The council has a number of schemes in the pipeline including discouraging motorists from idling while parked but Steven Wakefield, councillor responsible for highways, transport and parking said high tech solutions were also being explored.

He said: “All of our major traffic lights are currently controlled by a computer system that uses live data from vehicle detectors that adjust traffic signal settings to reduce delays.

“By responding intelligently and continuously to changes in traffic flow and co-ordinating how traffic signals operate, we can help to move traffic along and improve journey times for road users.”

Mr Wakefield added: “We are also currently rolling out a more advanced system called Stratos that can measure and react to poor air quality and help alter traffic light timings accordingly.

“This system can help improve air quality and display air quality updates on electronic signage for all to see. It’s impressive technology and ensures we continue to move towards cleaner air across our city and hopefully improve journey times for everyone.”

Southend’s two air quality management areas are at the A127 Bell Junction between Hobleythick Lane and Rochford Road and a stretch of Victoria Avenue, close to the junctions with East Street, West Street, Priory Crescent and Fairfax Drive.

Both exceed nitrous oxide levels from vehicle exhausts at times.

Paul Thompson, a member of the Southend Seafront Traders’ Association, said changes to road layouts had impacted air quality. He said: “Prior to them taking away Victoria Circus roundabout Victoria Avenue used to flow so if you went by car from Victoria Circus down onto Victoria Avenue and towards the Bell you’d pass through two sets of traffic lights and one pedestrian crossing light.

“There’s now ten. It’s the constant stop and start. It’s nothing to do with a couple of cars sat at the side of the road. Essentially they’ve created their own pollution problem by having so many traffic lights.

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Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter